Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Running again shortly.

I'm feeling recovered from everything, so I'm going to play it safe, take 1 more week off, and start running as soon I get back to Utah, probably on the 2nd. I'm very pumped to start hitting it again. I am going to take the first week relatively easy since I haven't run in almost 2 months, but I'm going to waste no time in rebuilding my base after that.

5 1/2 weeks from the start of retraining will bring the Rocky Raccoon 100. It's definitely just a "B" race, but I want to be ready. My goals are big for this race, but anything sub-20 won't be disappointing since I'm not going to have that big of a base going in. Still though, I feel very confident about this year's race since I am one year more mentally prepared and smarter about nutrition and racing very long distances in general. This is MY turn to run a sick time in a 100 miler and it's going down this February. Expect full weekly training reports starting in just over 2 weeks. :)

Monday, December 14, 2009

More time off.

My foot is better, but apparently I have mono. At this point, I'm basically just going to say screw it and start running again on January 1st. If I'm just building base, it's not exactly strenuous and my first week or 2 will be light anyway, so I'm not going to take another month off here for this stupid crap to go away completely.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Foot is feeling better.

I will very likely be running again in about a week.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Incredible memories and running nostalgia evoked by music.

I just finally setup my old desktop computer for the first time since leaving Baltimore since my laptop is temporarily unusable. I had never ripped the majority of my music collection to my laptop due to sheer laziness and just copied like the top 40 or 50 albums I was listening to at the time when I put the most recent hard-drive in it. I was browsing through my music collection on here and found a tremendous amount of old stuff that I used to listen to while running in Baltimore that I haven't heard in months or even years and I am truly shocked by what this is evoking in me.

Discovering some of this music is just awesome to me and it brings back some of the happiest memories of my running career, if not my life. It sounds crazy, but some of the times when I've been most at peace with the universe and just content in general have come from runs through the "Dreaded" Druid Hills, Robert E Lee Park, or Loch Raven Reservoir.

Jason Becker's entire "Perspective" album, which he wrote from a wheel chair completely paralyzed with ALS, a particularly special album to me even apart from any running connections, brings back vivid imagery from long runs through Loch Raven Reservoir, a beautiful place that I wish I had spent more time at.

Dream Theater's "Honor Thy Father", from their prog metal masterpiece "Train of Thought", reminds me of the struggle of pushing my way through the Gilman Trail on 5k-race-pace pickups (of course after hammering the Loyola hill on North Charles and looping around Gilman High School). That album was definitely not one to ever leave my immediate collection, but it's interesting that after listening to some of my other older music from my collection and I start thinking about old runs through Baltimore, memories come back with this as well. One specific section reminds me of one specific part of one specific run on one specific part of the trail, late at night in a state of combined agony and bliss despite being with nothing but my shoes, shorts, headlamp, and music.

Symbyosis' "Famine" from "On the Wings of Pheonix", one of my technical metal guilty pleasures, brings back memories of dodging the cracks in the sidewalks along North Charles just after crossing West University while prepping for a "big" climbs up the hill in front of that ritzy private middle school just up the road and then in front of Loyola while doing a very hard 7 mile tempo run that I was especially fond of.

Between the Buried and Me's entire "Colors" album, an undefineably odd masterpiece, reminds me of the loop around Fort McHenry and the sheer terror of crossing the 10 mile mark in the 2007 Baltimore Marathon way too fast in somewhere around 65 minutes and wondering how I was possibly going to hold on for another 16.2 miles (my first ever Boston Qualifier in 3:04, so I guess I managed to survive at least somewhat).

Not all of the music connects to good times though. I remember listening to Rachmaninoff's irreconcilably despondent 2nd Symphony, 3rd Movement (at least to me) while crushing my body through the poorly cleared, thorny, and rocky back half of Robert E Lee park during a very long trail-hopping run, tears absolutely exploding from my eyes during one of the few times in recent life that I truly let myself absolutely break down as nothing in my life seemed to be going as I had anticipated.

On a lighter note, Origin's absurdly heavy "Informis Infinitas Inhumanitas" super-death-metal album reminds me of the one time I was crazy enough to bring music this fast (on someone else's recommendation) to an 8-10 mile run with 10x60 second extremely-high-effort hill repeats right in the middle on the nasty double-switch-back hill in Druid Hill Park (if you've ever run the road loop circling the zoo starting on the side by the cemetery mini-car thing, whatever it is, you know EXACTLY what hill I'm talking about).

Veni Domine's highly epic prog rock "Last Letter from Earth" from their album "Spiritual Wasteland" reminds me of doing an easy long run along Lake Avenue and around the outside of Robert E Lee Park, up into Towson along Jappa Road, and back on the incredibly sketchy York Road, which had me no longer running "easy" by any means and looking over my shoulder every 30 seconds or so.

One of my most cherished runs in my entire time in Baltimore was a crazy 40 mile trainer I did from North Baltimore to Washington DC, almost entirely along route one. I contemplated this run for the longest time before I got the balls up to do it once, but that one time was enough to build some incredible memories. The mindset in 6 1/2 hours of training is not whatsoever similar to the mindset in long 6+ hour races and I completely phased out of reality and forgot that I was even running for literally 30 minutes at one point. However, I could never forget listening to Megadeth's highly satiric "United Abominations" title track while descending a long gradual downhill on Route 1 shortly after buying Hawaiian Punch, water, and a Snickers bar at convenience store, convincing the store clerk that my Hammer Nutrition HEED (a pure white powder in a ziplock bag that was to be mixed with the water) was cocaine.

Last and perhaps most most vivid are the memories from Shadow Gallery's beautiful prog rock concept albums "Tyranny" and "Room V", which follow each other in the same story line, and which I nearly always listened to in succession. Hearing either of these reminds me of an eerie yet serene run through Robert E Lee Park shortly before the setting of the sun, looking out over the lake to see a beautiful yet incredibly unnerving mist settling. I felt completely effortless and nearly out of body, yet I was in a terrified enough mindset (after all, a stripper had very recently been murdered in this park) to be running with one earbud out and nearly freaking out to the drone of a lightrail passing into the decaying horizon a mile or 2 away.

What does running mean to me? I love to race and respectably fast times over distances previously unfathomable to me can be a reward for the hard work I put in, but nothing compares with the memories I've built up during that work; I wouldn't trade those for anything. It's really bizarre that the simple act of using a computer that I don't normally use can evoke such a palette of emotion and due to the highly reflective mood I've been in for the past few days, I'm glad that I plugged it in today and spent much of the evening just sitting back and remembering the good times I had while running in Baltimore.

A view I frequently saw at Loch Raven Reservoir.

The now structurally unstable and literally crumbling entrance to Robert E Lee Park that I used several times a week for years.

Just about to start up the climb past Loyola College on North Charles Street.

Western States 2010

I just got into the 2010 Western States 100, so I will be running it. This will be a really interesting and tough double if I also get into Badwater since the 2 races are so close together (16 days apart), so if I get to do both, I'll have to take it a little easy at Western, whatever that means in a 100. hah.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

I stress-fractured my foot.

So, I apparently stress-fractured my foot, likely due to the pounding on pure roads for all but the very first and last tiny bit at helen klein. I had it x-rayed and they found nothing, but it still hurt nearly 2 weeks later, so I got it checked again and they found new bone growth (but no crack since you apparently have to hit it at just the right angle to see the crack), which means i had fractured it. IE, it's been broken for around 3 1/2 weeks now and I'm supposed to rest completely for around 4 qwwka after diagnosis which was 1 1/2weeks ago, mostly since I didn't entirely rest for the first 2 weeks after they convinced me that it was just a sprain or something. Either way, my fall racing schedule basically didn't happen. No half marathon last weekend and no Vegas marathon next weekend. It's definitely getting better and based on the current rate of progress, I expect the discomfort to be entirely gone in regular walking and daily activities within a week.

I should be completely healed and able to start running again in around 2 1/2 weeks, which hopefully gives me enough time to throw enough base back in to my legs to go at least 100 miles in 24 hours in a new year's eve 24 hour run down in Phoenix. If it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out, but I'm going to try. There's no better way to build my base up quickly then to have a few weeks to do TONS of slow but long mileage and then test myself in an attempt to do 100 miles and then whatever else I can manage in a 24 hour period.

I'll probably not really post much until I'm healed, but things aren't all that bad I guess. I was getting into pretty sick shape, so I'm obviously extremely disappointed that I couldn't run my fall marathon, which I imagine would've knocked 10+ minutes off my pr, but a good bit of rest will be useful going into a long string of races and hard training that will basically have to last from February until July.

In the mean time, I've been swimming for at least a half an hour 5 or 6 days a week so I will be able to fulfill my obligation of completing an Ironman Triathlon in exchange for Ryan McGrath running 100 miles. Additionally, I've been lifting pretty hard. I've got a 3 day split in the gym of chest/triceps, back/biceps, and shoulders (never done any legs since it interferes pretty severely with running if I work hard at it at all). My main focus has been on chest/triceps lately and I seem to be gaining faster than normal now that I can't run for a little while. When I came out to Utah in June, I was decline-pressing a max of about 180 and as of today it's up to 260 (I typically decline press rather than flat bench to get as much chest definition as possible with the minimum body weight gain). It looks like I'm on track to hit my yearly goal of 275, which would be pretty cool. I'm sure no-one that runs cares about my lifting goals, but it's still pretty fun to work hard in the gym and see the numbers go up. Lifting and adding extra mass to my body obviously isn't beneficial to running, but my body fat has decreased since I started lifting pretty hard last year, so I really haven't added that much overall weight and I've never noticed it affecting my running at all, so I'm going to keep doing it.

So yeah, foot = fractured, but I'm not going crazy about it. That's about it for now.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A few other new things... (sort of injury, cross training, etc)

After HK50 (or HK51.5 as I have been calling it... haha...), I felt pretty recovered after 2 days, so I started running again last monday with a short run on Monday and Tuesday. I pushed way too hard on Wednesday, warming up for a couple miles and then hitting an extremely hilly 7 mile course (over 100' gain and loss/mile average) at 5000' in about 7:00 for the first mile and then 6:00/mile after that, which kind of beat me up since my body was still somewhat in recovery mode. Thursday I took it easy for 8 miles, but on Friday, I woke up with a fairly sore right foot.

Walking around on it on Friday, it felt generally disagreeable, but not anywhere near enough to keep me from running. I jogged from my house to the University field house to do a quick 8x400 workout on the very tight unbanked 211 meter indoor track and felt fine on the way, doing the exactly 3 mile route I take in just over 19 minutes with extreme ease (average heart rate 155) due to the fairly huge downhill from my house to campus. Starting in on the 400s, though, my foot started to feel a little finicky. Wanting to do them all in around 69 or 70, I did the first one in 70, feeling fine. On the 2nd one, my foot started to get irritated and I had to let up a little on the very sharp turns, so I ended up hitting a 71. On the 3rd one, it hurt a little more and I had to let up even more for a 72. On the 4th one, the pain became extreme and I nearly walked my way through the turns to hit a 73. I decided after that that something must be seriously wrong, so I quit the workout before serious damage could be done. I sat down and massaged my foot for about 15 minutes, debated asking someone I knew for a ride home, but decided not to be "needy" and that I could walk the 3 miles home. That proved to be a rather bad idea as walking 3 miles on it ended up being rather painful. When I was sitting there massaging it, someone had said "better make sure you don't get a stress fracture with all that running!" and I started to realized while walking home and experiencing pretty bad pain that I might have one. When I got home, I looked up the symptoms for a stress fracture and realized that I had everything except the bruise.

I went to bed and woke up on Saturday with a huge purple/red bruise over my sore spot, which seemed like really bad news. I took Sat/Sun off running and hobbled around in pain all weekend before Sunday night, when I started to realize that it wasn't QUITE as sore as before. I woke up on Monday, feeling slightly better, and went into the doctor, who x-rayed it and found absolutely no evidence of even a slight hairline crack. His official diagnosis was that it was something tendon-related, maybe a sprain. Honestly, that kind of sounds like crap to me since the bone itself was pretty sore, but who knows...

As of today (wednesday), I'm feeling mostly better but still a bit sore. I'm going to try a very short run tonight and do it on something very hilly that will keep my pace super slow (probably just up and down a small mountain for like 3 miles total running).

I've picked up swimming in the last few days as a means of getting some cardio work in and found it to be incredibly tough (not to mention that my triceps, rear deltoids, and hamstrings, are all getting pretty sore). My sense of pace is pretty much terrible and I can't really seem to do more than 100 yards at a time without getting my heart rate up in the 180s and having to rest a minute, so I've just been doing about 1000 yards a day, but I can feel that it's working my body relatively hard. I guess I'm going to have to learn to swim at a legitimate effort level at some point if i want to actually be able to do an Ironman next year as part of the "I have do an Ironman, you have to run 100 miles" bet I have going with Ryan Mcgrath. haha... Honestly, I think we're both a little bit screwed for this...

Totally late race recap for Helen Klein 50

Race recap from Helen Klein 50 (51.5).

Flew out to Sacramento for the HK 50 on Halloween. Before the race they announced that it would be "a little bit" long due to construction that they had found out about 2 days before the race, causing a last minute course re-route. I'm pretty sure I had heard someone say that it was supposed to be .25 miles long, but I was in the bathroom when they were announcing stuff, so I never heard the official scoop. Anyway, talking to 6 or 7 people with GPS watches at the finish, everyone had it between 51.24 and 51.8x, so it was probably around 51.5.

Anyway, the race started out and Chikara Omine, the Japanese-American 50-mile superstar just took off at somewhere just a little above 6:00/mile, IE a totally ridiculous pace for 50 miles for anyone other than him. No-one else wanted to go fast so I settled into 2nd for the first couple miles. The race was on real trails for the first 2 miles or so and we hit the first aid station when my watch said a little over 3 miles (though their splits were instantly off and it said something absurd like 2.2 miles).

After doing 7:30s for few miles, a couple guys caught me and passed me, which kind of made me feel a bit relieved, since I was kind of worried about being a fair amount ahead of everyone other than Chikara. After 5 miles, I went off course for .1 miles, which really pissed me off. There was a ribbon going into the woods, but I guess it was from another race or something. I had been pretty sure that the race never touched "trail" trail after the first 2 miles, but I knew there was some sort of construction, so I had guessed it may have been a detour. Anyway, when I got back to the correct parkway, a couple other guys had caught me, one of them being Sean Lang, who apparently had run probably just slightly ahead of me for a good chunk of Cascade Crest 100 until I totally blew up at 76 and he continued in to finish in the low 21s (me barely surviving my way to a high 26s). Sean had done 6:50 at American River, and I thought this course would be faster, so I figured running near him seemed smart. We continuned to go around 7:30s for awhile and eventually we found ourselves running in a pack in 4th to 8th with Sean, 2 guys he knew, and Adrian Shipley, a recent college grad who had run some totally sick 10k times collegiately (31:40 PR). After maybe 15 miles, Adrian and I decided that Sean and crew were pushing slightly too hard so we let them go and continued at 7:30 pace or so.

The aid stations mileages continued to be horribly off, fluctuating between too long and too short (for example, at one point, the markers between stations stated somewhere right around 3.0 miles, but my watch put at nearly 5). On the other hand, the aid that said 21.1 or 21.2 to the turnaround (which was supposed to be at 24.7 due to an extra .6 miles run past the beginning of the course on the way back) took around 15 minutes to run, so it was only 2 miles or so. In total, though, the marker came up as 25.55 on my watch instead of 24.7, which mentally did not help things. When running at a relatively decent pace for many many hours, each extra mile tacked on to the course mentally hurts quite a bit, so I was not excited about the fact that it would be 51.1 total just to get back to the start plus a bit more after that. I don't recall the exact time that Adrian and I hit the halfway point, but after standing around eating for maybe 2 minutes, we went back and hit the marathon in around or slightly under 3:20.

Still feeling pretty good, but certainly hurting somewhat from running a marathon in 3:20 (which is over 1:00/mile off my PR, but still not like a totally easy jog), we soon caught up to Sean, who was starting to suffer. I believe one person had passed us in the first half after Sean and crew took off, so when we re-passed Sean, we were running 7th and 8th.

Coming up to about 30 miles, I started to let myself think about how much it was going to suck to do 20+ miles more at this pace and I just started to mentally unravel. At mile 31, I had believed that I was within a quarter mile of the station due to the faulty markers, so I told Adrian I was just going to walk it off to the station to stretch my legs and he said he'd be at the station for probably a few minutes, so I'd just catch up to him. I'd forgotten that this was the supposed 3 mile station-to-station section that was actually way too long, so I ended up walking a mile before I got there since I kept thinking I must almost be there. When I got to the station, I was mentally starting to break, so I sat down for 12 minutes and drank a couple cups of sprite and a can of mountain dew. Sean came through the station still running (just a bit slower) and left before I did, leaving me in 9th place. Leaving the station, I still felt totally mentally down about the rest of the race and walked another 1/2 mile or so, at which point I just suddenly flipped out on myself. I literally started screaming at myself while walking down the parkway and got so pissed at myself that I got running again.

Realizing that an extremely hard effort for the rest of the race could still get me under 7 hours for 50 miles, I started to push once again. I knew I couldn't hit that 7:30 pace for the remainder and it would kill my race if I tried, but I settled into an 8:30 or so pace, which I held for about the rest of the race.

Despite slowing, I started to catch other runners soon. I eventually passed Sean and 2 other guys, getting me up to 6th by mile 40 or so. By mile 40, since I had started to take a little more time in the aid stations (maybe 2 minutes or so every few miles) I had to do 10 miles in 80 minutes to go under 7 hours. I realized this probably wasn't going to happen, but kept pushing to see what I could do. Everything after 31 was pretty painful since I had mentally broken for a little while in there, but by mile 40, my legs were starting to hurt and my feet were just getting tired of the continual pounding on pavement.

I caught back up to Adrian somewhere around 45 or 46 since he had apparently just crashed after 42 miles or so. I knew Sean wasn't far back, so I didn't really get to stop to make pleasentries. From about 40 on, Sean had been running slightly slower than me, but not really stopping in the stations for much time at all and he would repass me when I would stop for a minute or 2 to eat salt, food, etc. By mile 48 or so I thought I had him beat and 5th place secured, but a long hill from 49 to 49.5 got the best of me and I walked a bit at the end. Turning around at the top of the hill, I saw him jogging up and I saw that he saw me, so I took off as fast as I could (at that point about 7:00 minute pace). I kept running hard, but he had seen me walking and realized he could catch me, so, shortly after my watch said 50.00 miles in 7:08, he passed me.

I was pretty pissed at myself for allowing that to happen, but I knew 6th was mine and just didn't care what kind of time I ran for 51.x miles since I had split out the 50.0 on my watch already, so I just slowed down and jogged in to the end, finishing in 7:21.

When I finished, I found out that Sean had won the 18-29 category and gotten a really sweet hand-made clock with an award plaque on it while I got the 2nd place age group award very similar to the generic finisher award (cool, but definitely nowhere near the clock...).

All in all, the big problem was that I went out too fast. 6th overall and 7:08 for the 50 split isn't terrible, but if I had gone out slower, I probably could've gone at least 30 minutes faster if I hadn't been so stupid about my pace at the beginning. I lost 23 minutes just between 31 and 31.5 when I walked 1.5 miles in 11 minutes slower than it would've taken to run it and sat down for 12 minutes, so just chopping that out would've put me at 6:45, just 5 minutes from the coveted 8:00/mile 50 mile.

Karl Meltzer, my coach, had encouraged me not to be so aggressive as to go out in 7:30s, but I figured that the smart plan to be able to hit around a 6:30 was to go out at 6:15 50 mile pace since I'd have to stop a bit more in the 2nd half undoubtedly. However, I think that if I had gone out in 7:50s, I probably could've held on. If things had started to come undone around 40-41instead of 30-31, the prospect of only 10 miles remaining probably wouldn't have been enough to mentally break me down to the point of walking. In my marathon PR, for example, I started feeling pretty crappy 10 miles from the finish, so I know it's doable to hold on for 10 miles at the end of a race without sacrificing much of the pace at all.

I'm not sure when I'll have the opportunity to do another fast 50 miler (probably not until this same race next fall since I probably won't be able to run either the Jed Smith Road 50 or American River 50 next year), but I'm pretty confident I can run a fair amount faster the next time, especially if it is a year from now. Maybe at that point, 7:30/mile pace will be a feasible plan...

Monday, October 19, 2009

A few really solid workouts this week.

I've had a really solid string of runs since my last posting, so I thought I'd post them.

Wednesday last week: 10x400. First pure 400s workout since high school probably, but I can already tell a difference since doing it. I expected to average about 75s, but I averaged 72s. I did the first one in 70 since I wasn't paying attention to splits and then did most of the rest in 73s and then hit the last 2 in 71 and 68. I felt that I could've easily done 15 at my 72 average, but the schedule just called for 10 and I guess the point of a 400 workout isn't to totally trash my body. Having a little more speed than expected, especially on a crappy non-banked indoor track with sharp turns that probably cost me some time was definitely a good surprise.

Thursday last week: 10k. Did 10k in 37:50. Doesn't sound fast, but the course was at around 4700' elevation average and had over 600' of gain and drop, so it was extremely hilly. Didn't quite go race effort, but it still translates to an equivalent performance better than my atrocious PR of 35:08 (though when I ran my 35:08 i was capable of sub 34 if I hadn't run like a frickin retard and split the first 2 miles in 10:15...)

Friday last week: 10 miles in Denver since I was there for the Rachmaninoff Festival. Fairly hilly, but less than Salt Lake City, the equivalent of up and down 3/4 of the Boston Marathon's Heartbreak Hill each mile, IE WAAAAAY easier than the horrendous hills I hit on the trails here. Not a big effort, but put in 6:30s. Also, interesting to note that I walked approximately 12 miles on Friday since I had a hotel 4.5 miles out of downtown and walked the roundtrip in addition to walking around exploring the city for awhile... haha... Surprisingly, I felt that walking that far was somewhat strenuous and came to the conclusion that running a marathon anywhere above 7 minutes per mile would probably be less painful than walking one since I'm just not used to walking so far and it actually strains my quads after 12 miles. haha...

Saturday: no running, my off day, but walked about 10 miles, my legs felt awfully bad for walking that far.

Sunday: My pained quads recovered quickly, probably thanks largely to the 3-4 grams of hydroxymethylbutyrate I take daily. I did a 16 ish mile trail run (by 16-ish I mean that I had it logged as 16, but I think my GPS cuts it short in a few wooded sections, so it may have been a bit longer) in 1:58 with 2600' feet of gain. This translates to about 6:30s @ flat sea level, but the trail is pretty darn technical and has a lot of rocks, so the effort level for 6:30s is much higher here. I was keeping my heart rate right around 170 the whole way, but it dropped on a handful of really technical rocky downhills that were impossible to run at that effort due to the hazard of tripping involved with running that fast, so I averaged 168. I'm looking to be able to average right around the magic 170 at Vegas, so being able to hold it there for 2 hours without trashing myself with over a month and a half to train still was a very good sign. When I finished this run, I declared to my roommate that I thought it was the single best trail run I've ever had in Salt Lake City.

Today, Monday: 7 miles. I said I'd go easy and I did, well, for the first 5 miles at least. I ran on a really good treadmill that I actually believe is credible (in the past, specific paces between here and a track at the same elevation have matched exactly for heart rate values). I did the first mile in 7:00 flat and it felt like a total joke, so I did the next 4 in 6:30s (I was running at a 6:31 and just cranked it every once in awhile to knock a second off each mile). By mile 5, which I hit in 33:00, I was getting bored with the super easy pace (not to mention that my heart rate was barely at 160, which is literally the effort I was able to put in for just over 9 hours in my super tough last 50 miler), I ran mile 6 in 5:59, which surprisingly only brought me to a 172 heart rate. As you recall, last week, a 172 was getting 6:17s or something at this elevation, but I literally feel like my strength is multiplying on a daily basis. I could tell that my legs were running really fast at this point but it just felt insanely effortless. Anyway, after mile 6, it still felt pretty easy, so I cranked up the pace some more for the last mile. I was going to do it in somewhere around 5:30, but I just kept upping it and finished the last .2 at 4:40/mile, so I did mile 5 in 5:21 for a total of 42:20 or an average of 6:20 per mile. I had been wondering if my heart rate monitor was slightly off, but I got up to 190 in the final bit of the run and while it felt very strenuous, I was definitely not maxed, so I believe it actually was accurate and 6:31s really did correspond to a sub-160 effort. Oh, and yes, the treadmills I run on here actually go faster than 12 mph... They actually go to 15 mph, so when I feel like cranking out a 4:00 mile on a treadmill, I can do it... haha... Either way, going harder at the end of a 7 mile easy run doesn't seem detrimental to me. I did it for a short enough period of time that my legs don't have to recover or anything and I'll still get to reap some rewards from working on my speed.

One other note, the fact that I held a 161 for my last trail 50 and that 6:30s on flat corresponds sub 160 BPM heart rate does NOT mean I'm going to go run 6:30s for 50 miles. (My current marathon PR is only 6:36/mile, so that should be obvious.) I guess what that means is that my cardiovascular system is capable of doing a 50 that fast, it's just that my legs are nowhere near strong enough to withstand that pace for so long. On the trails, I'm not running as fast, so my legs don't really break down the same way and I'm able to withstand a much higher effort level and cardiovascular taxation. I've talked to bikers who can hold 180+ heart rates for 4+ hours, which would be unfathomable for running, but it's simply due to the fact that the bikers aren't pounding their legs into oblivion on asphalt. Trail running is the same thing. The insane hilliness on a course like Mt Dis 50 prevents one from running fast and therefore prevents the legs from getting destroyed (given good hillwork of course), but the effort level remains pretty high for a very long period of time.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Some interesting heart rate info...

So, today I had an 8 mile run that wasn't supposed to be at a moderate effort, not going anaerobic, but not going easy. I decided to go 8 miles on flat at 6:15s at 5000', which I seemed to remember being about 6:07s at sea level, which is pretty close to the marathon pace I'd have to run to do a 2:40. It turns out, it corresponds to 6:02s on sea level, in fact about a 2:38 pace, according to the Jack Daniels Calculator that I am so fond of. I've figured that if I have a great day in December (assuming I continue to train well), I could probably hold an average of 169 or 170 for the duration of 26.2 miles. 6:15s at 5000', similar to 6:02s at sea level, got me an average HR of somewhere between 171 and 172 today, so I'm cardiovascularly right around being able to run a 2:41 or so right now if I can hold up the 169 or 170 the whole way. My legs probably can't hold up on roads well enough to run that right now, but I have 2 months and that's plenty of time to get my legs fully from trail form to road form.

My short distance speed and my ability to keep a lower heart rate at a fast pace is definitely getting better as well, which is a good sign. I did a 4.8 mile tempo on roads the other day (was supposed to be 5, I guess I'm cheating... haha...). The run had very serious hills the first 2 being straight uphill with 600' gain in 14:30, and from 2 to 4.8 rolling downhill (net 600' downhill, but about 250' up, 850' down) in 14:50. Obviously, despite the rolling nature, this is going to be faster than flat, but the 5000' elevation still costs me time. The last 2.8 corresponds to 15:20 on flat at sea level, or just under a 17:00 5k. This doesn't sound fast, but my heart rate averaged only about 177 and never crossed 180 except for the last 1/4 of a mile or so when I picked up my pace to 4:40/mile on the heavily downhill finish. In an actual race, I'd average WAY higher than 177 (actually averaged 191 in a 10k), so the fact that 177 puts me only 25 seconds off pace for a 5k PR during the last 2.8 miles of a run means that I could destroy my marathon PR on a good course right now.

Back to thinking about the marathon... I think with some good training focused on roads, I should be on track to be able to get right around that 2:40 point by December, though I'm sure it will take everything I have to race a marathon in 2:40 this year. I think my half marathon I'm running 2 weeks out from the race should give me a good idea, but I really think it should be possible at this point.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Really kicking it hard in that speed gear and how I plan to break 2:40 this year.

I've decided that Las Vegas MUST be a breakthrough race for me. 2:40 sounded like an awfully fast goal considering that I'm not going to be doing my fall marathon on a net 2600' drop course anymore, but I've decided that I still think it will be attainable. In the past, I had never done enough track work and very serious tempo workouts to obtain my maximum potential at the time in a marathon, but this time it's different. I'm doing a weekly road tempo now, a very strenuous long run every thursday (should be at least 150 minutes every week at this point), and a weekly 3x3 mile on Saturday in addition to a 3 other runs (1 easy and 2 moderate days on trails) and an off day, totalling around 65-70 miles a week, half of the mileage being in the mountains or at least on extremely hilly trails, far more difficult than any trail I had available to me in Baltimore.

My first attempt at the 3x3 9 days ago failed miserably and I quit after 2 intervals after being totally demoralized by a torrential downpour and heavy winds. Yesterday, however, was much different. I went out and did the workout slightly more conservatively than I could've (heart rate averaging 175 or 176 when I could feasibly due the workout at 179), but it was a nice first super tough threshold-boosting workout after not doing one for 2+ months. My times were 17:40, 17:48, 17:39, but I feel confident that a maximal effort for the workout could net me all 3 in less than 17:30, which I plan on attempting to hit in my next 3x3 workout on Saturday now that I know I can stomach the workout again. Also, keep in mind that I'm running these on a track at 4700' elevation, which costs me nearly 10 seconds per mile at an equivalent effort, even though I'm well acclimated at this point. In July, I had done a 3x3 at 5:40/mile at 4800' elevation, much faster than my 5:54 I did yesterday, but the indoor track I did it on was probably a few seconds short per mile, not to mention that I was running in a nice climate controlled environment free from wind.

Why the 3x3? In my previous marathons, the one thing I lacked physiologically was a high lactate threshold. I had a very strong endurance base going into most of my recent marathons and going 26.2 miles wasn't a big deal, but my legs were not able to hold up to the pace that my aerobic system was capable of for the whole distance, so I was stuck in the low 2:50s while my heart and lungs were capable of propelling me to a hypothetical 2:35, based on some lab testing I undertook. While I doubt that I'll be able to maximize my heart/lung potential from one marathon to the next, proper training can get it pretty close. The best way to boost my lactate threshold is to run tempos or long intervals as close to 179 beats per minute (my threshold point) as possible. Track workouts provide the best way to run pure flats here in Salt Lake City where there really are not many miles of flat roads. While doing tempos at 179 on roads would be beneficial, my speed would have to be slower due to the massive hills that are so abundant, so I'm sticking to the track. Fortunately, Karl is a big proponent of the 3x3 for me as well, so he was more than happy to prescribe the workout on a weekly basis, provided that I was able to use enough common sense to run them evenly, which I did a good job of yesterday (all 400 splits were between 86 and 90 except the very last lap of the last 3 mile, which I ran in 80).

Part of getting myself into top marathon form by December includes listening to my body like I never have before. I've learned from my past, especially when I seriously overtrained for Rocky Raccoon, putting in heavy mileage all at a very strenuous effort, mostly in snow, all last winter. While my endurance base definitely increased, I simply ran too much at too high of an effort and my legs were absolutely trashed by the end of the winter. Now that I have 3 key days per week, I need to make certain that I'm going into the workouts fresh. If I'm not recovered for a 3x3, the most important day of the week, I'm not going to run as fast and I'm not going to get out of it what I should. If I run really hard the day before a serious workout, I might get a little extra out of that particular run, but I'm going to be trashed going into the important workouts and my overall benefit will be lower, not to mention the fact that I will be in jeapardy of overtraining. I'm still having a bit of a problem holding back on my easy days that Karl throws in my schedule since I had always been one to push a little too hard on a daily basis, but having learned my lesson a few times now, I'm willing to do the right thing this time.

2:40 is a very lofty goal for me and I'm not totally sure that I'll be able to hit it, but I decided to run a half marathon a couple weeks out from my marathon to get a great sense for where I'm at. If I can go much under 6:00/mile on this relatively hilly half marathon course at 2500' elevation without much of a taper, I think I should be able to break 2:40 (6:06/mile) on a totally flat course under ideal conditions at sea level with a good taper. Assuming that I feel pretty close to 100% at the half in mid-late November, I'll probably base my pacing at Vegas pretty heavily on how that half goes.

In the mean time, I'm going to still be running the Helen Klein 50 on Halloween, but I don't anticipate this disrupting my training much. I'm going to taper for about a week, during which I'll probalby just run a 2x3 and skip my long run, but if it goes as well as my last couple 50s, I should be back at 100% and training well again within 3-4 days after the race.

In the mean time, my motivation is the highest it's been in a long time. I have a few friendly rivals that are set to run verygood marathons this fall (you know who you are... haha...), so just thinking about that keeps me wanting to be ready for and kill it in my key workout days. :)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Restructuring my fall schedule.

I'm cutting back to 2 big races that I'm going to let my entire fall success ride on. I was going to be running the St George Marathon in 2 1/2 weeks, but I decided after Cascade Crest that I'm not ready for it. I'd been doing fairly consistent speed/tempo work through July, but didn't really do any in August, so I'm going to want to rebuild a bit of that top-of-the-line speed and add even more on before I run another marathon. I've decided to do the Las Vegas Marathon in early December. That gives me 2 1/2 months to peak, which is precisely what I'll need to hit it perfectly. The course is flat instead of downhill like St George, but since it's basically right at sea level compared to the 2000-5000 feet that St George is at, it shouldn't be much slower.

I'm still going to be running the Helen Klein 50 miler on Halloween, but it's not really a typical ultra. Based on the heart rate I was able to sustain for 50 miles at Mt Disappointment (~160 average), I should be able to hold a little over 160 bpm average at HK50 since it's a faster course that will require less time at any given level of effort. On a flat course at very nearly sea level, 160 will put me well under 8:00/mile, so figuring maybe 10 minutes in for water bottle refills, very quick 30 second breaks to pound down high calorie foods, and an almost certain bathroom break, I think i should be able to run somewhere around the 6:30:00 range (6:40:00 would be 8:00/mile if I never stopped). 6:30 sounds somewhat ambitious, but I split the halfway point at American River 50 (which runs on the same bike path as HK50 for the first 27 miles) in 3:17 and I was able to hold a pretty similar effort for the second half (only it was on much slower trails, which took a lot longer to run). Also, my fitness will certainly be much better going into this race than going into American River, so I think I should be able to have a better performance.

As for training, I've been kicking up the speed. On the easy days that Karl gives me, I'm trying to find the flattest ways to run that I can so even if my effort is low, my pace will still be pretty fast. My long runs are mostly mountain runs right now where the pace is slow, but the intensity and time taken to complete the run are both pretty high due to very long strenuous climbs, etc. I'm also going to be consistently hitting tempo-range track workouts at least once a week pretty much every week between now and December. My cardiovascular system is definitely much more efficient than it was at the beginning of the summer, so my VO2 max has certainly improved, which gives me room to raise my lactate threshold, and therefore drop my racing times a fair amount.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Figured I should post a recap from CCC100

I totally forgot to write a recap for it and it's been 2 weeks now so I don't really feel like writing out a huge super long report, but here's what happened:

Finished in 26:55. First 74 miles were really good, absolutely died after that and lost a ton of places and time, felt very lucky to finish.

My pace was really good for the first 74 and my effort levels were exactly where the should've been. However, I pulled my calf somewhere around 70 and it just started to get really bad at 74. Also, I had been getting sick (almost threw up the night before the race) and my body was failing to convert calories to energy. In other words, I could sit down in an aid station, eat 1000+ calories, and then just sit there for up to an hour to let it process, go out and run, and within 1 mile, feel like I was so hungry and weak that I was going to pass out. My first 74 miles took somewhere around 16:50 (on pace for a sub 23, about 4 hours faster than what I ran), but I took about 10 hours for the last 26, mostly because I wasted 3-4 hours lying down in aid stations trying to recover. I'm still not quite sure what happened... I don't think I went out too fast and I'd like to think I could've held onto that pace if I hadn't hurt my leg and messed up my energy levels so badly, so I think getting sick was a big part of it.

Overall, Cascade Crest was pretty miserable and the altered course this year (going over a mountain instead of through it via tunnel somewhere around mile 50) was not incredibly well done in my opinion. Right around mile 52, we had to run down a rock-covered ski slope that had lots of boulders and rocks covered by straw, which proved to be a tripping hazard for a TON of people and while I didn't fall going down it, it was totally unrunnable, which cost me a lot of time. Also, the whole "trail from hell" section was pretty obnoxious. It included roughly 6 miles of totally unrunnable and barely hikeable trail with tons of fallen trees, huge rocks, etc. I'm all for a challenging run, but the keyword there is "run". When a part of a course becomes unrunnable, it should NEVER be included in a "running" race. I do these things to run, not to traverse fallen trees and giant boulders, so as far as I'm concerned, this area of the race should either be fixed up or removed.

When I finished, I said I would never do this race again, but I just might. I almost certainly won't next year, but who knows, I might come back for a better time in the future.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Mt Olympus run report, Last 2 weeks of training, also, now being coached by Karl Meltzer, also, ran another 10k

Last 2 weeks have been pretty light as I expected.

The Mount Olympus run to the summit a a week and a half ago was significantly harder than I thought I would be (the last 1.25 miles apparently has an incredible 2300' of pure gain) so I just did the one climb on Sunday. The whole thing was about a 7 mile round trip, but since it was on such horribly steep and technical hills, running nearly the entire thing still gave me about a 20:00/mile climb for the 3.5 miles up. I did the easiest portion (first 2 miles, with only 1500' of gain or so) in under 30:00, though when I say easiest, that means that a 14:xx/mile pace put my heart rate at a 180 average. After 2.25 or so, the trail quickly steepened and I had to take my first walking break after 2.3 or 2.4 miles and 1800' of climbing when I came to a slippery rock slide at about a 40% grade, that when run on, would cause me to slip and slide backwards. After I walked that, I got to some more runnable portions, but soon ended up in a huge boulder section where each step would require a several foot climb, so I had to hike my way through that part as well, which lasted a surprisingly long time and dropped my pace to something ridiculous like 50:00/mile for a little bit. After I finally finished with that section, I got to run some more on a horribly steep and technical portion on which my pace was like 25:00/mile while RUNNING (partly due to the intense difficulty, partly due to my fatigue from not knowing how bad the last bit was and going out too hard). Basically, it took everything I had to even run to the saddle at that point, at which point I got to run a little more and then scramble until I got to about 100 or 200' from the top, at which point, I decided to skip the last super steep scrambling section (it looked really dangerous) and turn around. I took the downhill really easy to recover and still had to walk through the boulder sections and rockslide, which were apparently totally unrunnable in either direction. All in all, this was a great run and I'm going to have to do it again and try to go for a faster time by not starting out so fast.

Other than that run, I've had about 45-50 mountain miles/week (according to a new system I've developed in conjunction with the Daniels Method of logging mileage via a point system, this would correlate to roughly a similar effort of 70-80 miles/week on flat at sea level) over the last 2 weeks, so while it sounds low, it's actually not bad training.

Most importantly in this post, I'm now being coached by fellow Salt Lake City runner Karl Meltzer. Karl holds the world records for both most 100 mile wins in one year (6, back in 2006 or 2007) and most 100 mile wins in general (26). He has also set course records at races such as Hardrock 100, San Diego 100, Wasatch Front 100. Karl is most distinctive on incredibly difficult courses and has 6 wins at Wasatch Front and 4 at Hardrock, probably the 2 hardest 100s in the continental US and on top of that, he knows what it takes to maintain good footspeed while training for long runs (he was dropping 10ks minutes faster than me at my current age), so while he only really does 100 milers seriously right now, I feel that Karl will still help me to develop the whole package with my running.

I went running with Karl for the first time today and we did a nice 12.3 mile jaunt through a moderate-difficulty - but very high elevation trail - going from 7600' at Mill Creek all the way up to the peak of the Canyons ski resort at 9700' with some downhills along the climb to be made up for and then a nice gradual descent back to 7600' (haven't looked at my GPS statistics yet, but it was easily over 3000' of gain). Most of my runs tend to peak around 7000' and I've only been above 7200' a couple of times this summer, my max being almost 9000' at Olympus, so when I started to get above 9000' or so, breathing became extremely difficult and the effort level felt incredibly strenuous even on a flat, so I was pretty glad to finally hit the peak after 70+ minutes and 6.2 miles of pretty high intensity. We ended up doing the 12.3 in 1:58, which correlates to 9:35s, which probably sounds ridiculously slow for all you road guys, but I actually considered this to be an extremely good trainer for the upcoming St George Marathon in October. Effort level wise, I felt like I did the 2 hours at an average intensity not too far off from how I race in a marathon (though the marathon is typically run at one pretty constant intensity and this was basically all over the place). Since we were done after 2 hours, I was just slightly sore after we finished but am better already now, later in the day, so this run won't affect my ability to perform this weekend at Cascade Crest. Oh, and, Karl said he probably would typically do this run in 2:05 or 2:10, so I guess having a young gun there breathing down his neck the whole way made him have to push a little harder. :)

One other quick thing... I raced some small little 10k on Saturday. I got a free entry and the prize was $100, so I had no reason not to do it. Unfortunately, a few other fast guys wanted the money so I ended up getting 2nd. The course was really tough (out and back with a 2% grade average uphill first half that was fairly rolling and just not fast at all). My first half was an unbelievably slow 19:00 or so and my second half was a fairly lazy 17:50. I led for the first mile (which according to the course markers I ran in 5:19), but according to my watch, I was only at .9 and by the mile 2 mark, the course was back to 1.99, so they obviously just put it in the wrong place. The guy who eventually won passed me with a lot of gusto after a mile and just opened up a lead from there. I don't know why he started so slowly, but I remember looking back around a half mile and not seeing anyone within 150 or 200 feet. Apparently, something clicked though, and he just sped up a lot and had about 45 seconds on me by the half. Since it was an out and back, we passed each other and he looked really smooth and I knew he wasn't catchable, so I just got somewhat lazy in the 2nd half and didn't run as fast as would've been possible. In all, since I made sure not to go out super hard and die in the 2nd half, my heart rate just averaged 182. My tempo workouts are run at somewhere around 178 or 179 if I'm really running it perfectly, so it was basically just an ever-so-slightly harder than normal tempo run as far as my body was concerned, which is definitely good to have done. Anyway, I finished a minute or so back in 2nd in 36:50 with a pretty big margin over 3rd (like 2 minutes I think) and got nothing but a medal that says "2nd place" and doesn't even list the race or anything. haha...

I'm taking the last 2 days before Cascade Crest completely off, despite already feeling well rested. There's not really anything I would be able to do at this point that would help my race on Saturday. The work is already done and I think I'm ready to run a good race. My body is pretty healthy, I've strongly improved my hill running abilities, I'm well-acclimated at elevations exceeding the highest point of the course, and my nutritional strategies and general racing tactics have significantly improved since my last 100. My last 2 50s have been much more consistent throughout the race than my last 50 prior to my last 100 and I also got to run a not insignificant 62 miles as a pacer at Badwater, so I think I'm pretty well prepped. While my overall mileage leading up isn't as high as it has been in the past, I've been running for a longer amount of time on a daily basis at a similar or higher effort to what I'd have been running at on roads and "trails" (if I can even call them that anymore after experiencing a summer of running in Salt Lake City), in Baltimore, so in reality, I've done the equivalent of higher mileage training than what I've done in the past. Since Cascade Crest is such a difficult race (course record is about 20 hours), my #1 goal is just going to be to finish without hurting myself, though I think with my strong performance at the very tough Mt Disappointment 50, despite going in with a painful sprained ankle, and my solid training in general, I think sub-24 is doable and I have this idea of beating my 100 mile PR (despite the course being MANY hours slower from either of my other 100s) in the back of my mind. Who knows... Breaking my PR would require a nearly perfect race, so we'll see if I can manage to put the pieces together with effort levels/pacing and nutrition this time. I think I can.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

2 1/2 weeks until Cascade Crest Classic 100

I haven't really thought much about this race yet since Mt Dis was 3 weeks before it. I originally signed up for Mt Dis intending for it to be a warmup for CCC, but I've realized that 50 is a pretty optimal distance for me, so I didn't quite put in the same training I'd normally do for a 100 and focused on being fast for a hard trail 50. That being said, I think I avoided becoming overtrained this time, so I'm probably going to be in far better shape to run a fast trail 100 miler than I was in my previous 3 100s. So yeah, I'm intending to keep it that way and not get over-trained in the last couple weeks.

I'm planning on a big day on Sunday, probably summitting both Mt Olympus, which boasts a super steep 4000' climb up to 9026', and Mt Nebo, the highest peak in the range, at 11928' with a 3800' climb. The 2 mountains are fairly separated, so I'll run one, drive to the other, and then run that one. Like my other really long climb runs, the goal will just be to run the whole thing without stopping regardless of pace. Oh, and since I've found that hitting the 185-190 heart rate range climbing up a mountain is rather painful, I'll try to keep my heart rate from hitting higher than 185 :).

I'm also finally getting my trailwork done on Saturday by helping out with the Wasatch Front 100 trails for 8 hours... That ought to be a long day. haha...

After this weekend, I'll probably use a strategy similar to what I did before Mt Dis: lots of super hilly runs that tax me but aren't longer than 10 miles and then a good taper for a week or so with almost no running.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Mt Dis >> 8700' of gain

My Garmin says it's 14395' and my Garmin has seemed very accurate for my trail training here in SLC, when comparing to gains that I know exact measurements for. I was obviously pretty skeptical and figured that the trees threw it off, but I zoomed in really close and only found a handful of unrealistic looking little jagged spots in the profile, which I would expect a whole bunch of if it was inaccurate. I'm sure 14395' is still an overestimate, but everyone seems to assume it's at least 10k' and I'm willing to bet it's somewhere between the 2, probably around 12000'. The problem with their profile online is that it's way too broad. They basically just calculated the elevation at a handful of points that are pretty far apart and took the net between each point, which doesn't account for the rolling nature of the course all, so it's got to be off by a couple thousand feet. That's my 2 cents at least...

Note: Click on the images to see the entire things... For some reason they're getting chopped off on this page.

Their profile (not very accurate looking, says 8700 feet):

My profile (more realistic looking, says 14395'):
Note that mine shows up at about 47 miles. I forgot to restart it a couple times when going out of aid stations (I kept total time on a watch on my right arm and time running on my Garmin so I could see how long I was stopped for, but forgot to start for up to .75 miles a coupel of times, for a total of 1.5 to 2 miles missed). Also note that the one thing I've found inaccurate with my Garmin is that it sometimes straightens out what I've done on a very curvy course such as this one, so the distance is very often estimated a little short, which should make up for the other 1 to 1.5 miles.

Also note that miles 2-5 were modified a little bit this year, explaining the discrepency between them on the profiles.

Race Report: Mt Disappointment Endurance Races: Hal Winton 50 Mile/USA Track & Field So Cal 50 Mile Trail Championship

A few days ago I ran the Mt Disappointment 50 mile trail run, which doubled as the USA Track and Field Southern California Association 50 Mile Trail Championship. Coming into this, I had read on a number of other blogs and heard from a number of people that Mt Dis was just about the most miserable 50 miler imaginable since it's a race that has the tendency to get very hot, runs through some very steep terrain through the San Gabriel Mountains, and has a lot of extremely technical footing. I had also heard that the name is very fitting: a lot of people go into this race seeing the slow times and read the course description on the course website (which makes it sound a bit more tame than it actually is) and think they should be able to go in and beat almost everyone and are extremely disappointed when they run 12 hours instead of the 9 they hoped for. Fortunately, I was happy with my results and it was only a very very slight disappointment for me since I finished in 9:03:33, 3 minutes and 33 seconds off of my goal of 9 hours.

Going into the race, I was incredibly anxious. I had pretty solid training, having run quite a bit in the Wasatch Mountains, heat-trained in a sauna for a bit of time, and done some serious track workouts and tempo runs, which have certainly boosted my lactate threshold and pain tolerance. Unfortunately, 9 days before the race, I sprained my ankle fairly painfully while doing one of my last couple serious mountain runs in Utah. For some reason, it couldn't seem to get better and it actually hurt quite a bit the day before the race, so I was really nervous about running at all. I took the entire week off leading up to the race except for a single 1 mile barefoot jog on Monday (which was supposed to loosen it up, but actually made it a fair amount worse). I was hoping that I'd wake up on race morning and feel fine, but when I woke up, walking hurt. Going into the run, I thought I was screwed and was thinking about DNF before the race even started.

As the race started, I started off down the road at a quick pace, a fair amount of soreness radiating through my left ankle and through my shin and foot. The first 6 miles or so were on a road, while the last 45 were on a trail, so I just hoped that the softness of the trail would make me feel better when I got there. Since the race started and finished at the top of Mt Wilson, the first 9 miles or so were entirely downhill with a several thousand foot drop. I was using my Garmin Forerunner 305 with heart rate, so I just focused on keeping my HR around 160 at the start. With a good downhill, despite the relatively high elevation (5650'), this meant sub 7:00 miles for the road section. I knew this was ok since my heart rate was sticking around 160, but it still kind of scared me to go out that fast in a 50 mile race. Fortunately, a lot of other people were running at a similar pace at the start (I did 5 miles in 33:45 and there were probably 20 people in front of me).

Once we hit the trail after the first aid station, which I didn't stop at for more time than it took for them to write down my number, my ankle felt better - for about a half a mile. 6 miles in and BAM. My ankle was weak and the downhill was steep, turny, and technical and all of a sudden, I sprained it again. I screamed loudly, hobbled in pain for 30 seconds, and, all of a sudden, just got super pissed about the whole situation and basically said to myself, "I don't care how bad my ankle hurts, I'm not letting this screw with the one super difficult hot trail race I have this summer to put on my Badwater app for next year", so I just mentally decided to ignore it. Of course it still hurt and I was absolutely unable to attack the technical downhills, which provided lots of room for people to fly by me, but sometime between mile 6 and 15, I literally succeeded in blocking out the pain and it didn't really bother me much the rest of the race (other than the fact that I was intentionally extremely timid on the technical downhills to avoid hurting myself yet again, which probably cost me 20 minutes throughout the entire race, but saved me a lot of pain and a potential DNF).

About 10 miles in, we cut back off the trail and started climbing up a dirt road. We ascended somewhere around 200 feet before arriving at an aid station. I had made up my mind pre race that I was going to waste absolutely as little time as possible at aid stations, so I blew by it, taking just enough time to grab my "heat hat" ( ), get rid of my single, which was already starting to get hot, and grab a very quick bite of food. Leaving the aid station, we hopped back on a fairly non-technical and wide - but steep - trail that ascended a net total of 1600 or 1700 feet before arriving at the next aid station a few miles ahead. This first serious climb wasn't so bad and I was able to re-pass most of the people that passed me while I was timidly descending the technical downhill on my bad ankle. Arriving at the top, at mile 13, I spent no more than 30 seconds at the aid station and blew through as fast as I could.

We had a quick descent at this point before ascending again, running about a mile of flat trail (the only flat section in the whole race), and then descending a short bit. After this descent, we started a serious climb around mile 18. Climbing a net gain of 1200 feet (though it was rolling, so there were some downhills that also had to be made up for) from 18 until 20 in somewhere around 100 degrees was enough to start a headache for me and after descending into the Red Box Aid Station at 21 miles, I didn't feel super great. Fortunately, I put some chocolate milk in a cooler that made up my drop bag at Red Box, so I drank it and wasted about 5 minutes sitting there letting it settle. The protein and milk fat were absolutely great and helped me feel full and satiated, but my headache was still there. I had forgotten to pack a couple advil just in case this happened and the aid station volunteers were not allowed to give out any sort of medications, but some random woman who was standing around waiting for a runner to come through heard me asking for advil and gave me 2. I ended up wasting another 5 minutes in the bathroom, so I lost a total of 10 minutes or so in Red Box before I finally got back out. Unfortunately, I had eaten a bit too much in this station, so I had to go slowly for a little bit to keep the food from coming back up (heat + full stomach + running = vomiting... haha...). The advil took a few miles to kick in, so I ran incredibly slowly and lost probably 10 minutes off the pace I should've been running on the steep downhill between 21 and 25.

Around 25 miles, my headache started to clear and a few local California runners in the 50 miler (Rob McNair, a 2:37 marathoner, and a friend of his, whose name I forget) caught up with me, burning their way through the downhill, so I struck up a conversation with them and ran with them until the aid station at 26.2, exactly a marathon in. We split the marathon in 4:05, if I recall correctly. Overall, we had gone downhill to this point, but there had been plenty of significant uphills and some serious and technical terrain, so I felt that the split was pretty solid. Rob kept telling me "Stop caring about your time, you should just be happy to finish a race like this," but by 26.2, I was starting to feel pretty good again, so I kind of ignored what he was saying and just kept shrugging off how hard the finish was going to be. I continued with Rob for another 10 minutes (his friend didn't stop at the aid station and we had taken about 2 minutes to eat) and decided to take off ahead of him since he wanted to walk a fair amount on the uphill from 26.2 to 30. I put in a nice jog-like pace up the 1000 foot climb and kept my heart rate around 172-175 the whole way up, right in the lower end of what's considered my "threshold zone". At one point, I couldn't keep my heart rate below 175 and knew I was going to start building up too much lactic acid, so I walked for about 30 seconds to lower my heart rate, but ran the entire uphill other than that.

I had been in 17th place at 26.2, but leapfrogged up to 12th between 26.2 and 30. 30 to 31.8 was a quick 2 ish mile loop that ended back at the same spot before continuing on down the trail and one person just a couple minutes ahead of me dropped in this section, so I ended up being in 11th place going out of the mile 31.8 aid station.

Mile 31.8 to 41.25 was the most worrisome section of the course for me. I knew going in that this was going to be a tough section since 32 to 35 was downhill, but 35 to 41 was a 2000' climb in the heat of the day without a single bit of shade. I was carrying 2 water bottles the whole race (one with water, one with HEED) and popping 2-3 salt pills an hour, 3 at this point now that it was pretty darn hot, but I was pretty sure that water would be an issue at this point. There was some icewater at mile 39 (not an aid station, but a tent with a chair and a cooler), but in the heat, I didn't think 2 water bottles would be adequate for 7 miles. I tried to ration it, but by mile 37, I was pretty much out of water and had to keep my effort really low between 37 and 39 to keep from sweating out too much and getting dehydrated. By the time I got to 39, I was getting pretty dehydrated, but I drank an entire bottle while I sat down for about 4 minutes at mile 39. I felt sluggish going out of mile 39 and it took 5-10 minutes for me to start feeling hydrated again as my body processed the water in my stomach, but I started feeling like I could have a good finishing kick when I got to mile 41.25.

I wasted another 4 minutes there eating some pizza and drinking a bunch of Mountain Dew (for a total of 20 minutes wasted in the bathroom or at aid stations eating food) before continuing down the last big descent of the course. At mile 41.25, I could see the entire finish of the course: a 1600' descent in 4.25 miles, followed by a massive 2600' net climb in the last 4.5 miles (the majority of that happening within maybe 2.5 miles). I tried to just not think about it, but looking out over the canyon realizing I had to descend one mountain and then climb another, the sheer magnitude of what the last 8.75 miles contained was pretty overwhelming.

The trail from 41.25 to 45.5 was pretty darn technical, but I had just been told by a volunteer at the aid station that there was "almost no way to cover the extremely difficult last 9 miles or so in 110 minutes", ie I couldn't break 9 hours, and I wanted to prove her wrong, so I flew down the ridiculous mountain trail as fast as possible. I got to mile 45.5 at 7:47:00 and was out by 7:48:00, having just taken the time to pop a last 3 salt pills, eat some pringles, and refill my bottles. Leaving the station, someone said it was "possible, but very difficult" to make this climc in 72 minutes. The first mile or so wasn't so bad and I made decent time on the climb. However, at about 46.5, the climb just got ridiculous. It took everything I had to never stop to lie down or just sit on the side of the trail. I was moving very slowly, but I still passed 10-15 middle-back-of-the-pack 50k runners/hikers and 2 50 milers in ths section and no-one passed me. However, I still couldn't quite get up fast enough and ended up being able to hear people at the finish as I watched my watch pass 9:00:00. 3 1/2 minutes later I finished and immediately sunk down in a chair. I ended up in 8th place overall and 1st in the 19-29 age group, plus I apparently broke the 29 and under course record. The top 2 guys were right around 8 flat (world-class runners Guillermo Medina and Troy Howard, the latter of which recently posted an incredible 26:01 at Hardrock 100, the 3rd fastest time on the course, which is almost certainly the hardest "legitimate" 100 miler in the world). The results haven't been posted yet, but it sounded like 4 of the other 5 runners ahead of me were within 14 minutes of me. Last year, my time would've been good for 4th place, though apparently this year was probably a little faster (maybe 5-10 minutes) since the beginning of the course was slightly modified from the previous 2 years due to some sort of permit restrictions, but it's probably still safe to say I would've finished top 5 against last year's field. As for the USATF standings, I'm not sure how I ended up, but I know that only US runners who are members of USATF were elgible, so I'm willing to bet I was top 5 in the USATF standings. As soon as I find out, I'll post it...

I am obviously a bit disappointed that I finished so close to 9 hours without breaking it, especially since I know that my ankle probably cost me around 20 minutes and my headache around mile 20 cost me about 10 minutes, but I'm still pleased with how I finished, especially since I could've used my ankle as an excuse to not push myself. I probably could've spent a little bit less time at aid stations, but 20 minutes stopped overall, including a bathroom break, isn't too bad over 9 hours. My nutrition was pretty much spot on during the race: I consumed about 20 salt pills and ate 6 gels (4 non-caffeinated power bar gels and 2 caffeinated hammer gels with 25 mg caff. each), about 30-40 pringles, 3 PB&J quarters, a Nesquik chocolate milk, a handful of gummi bears, 2 cups of Mountain Dew, 2 cups of sprite, 9 bottles of water, and 6 bottles of heed. Calorie-wise, this is somewhere around 2500 calories. Since my body processes somewhere around half of its calories from fat when running an ultra, this calorie intake was probably pretty close to ideal. 3000 would've been about perfect, so I was pretty close.

Albums listened to:
1. Believer - Gabriel
2. Cynic - Focus
3. Cynic - Traced in Air
4. Sanctifica - Negative B
5. ZAO - The Funeral of God
6. Gorguts - From Wisdom to Hate
7. Living Sacrifice - The Hammering Process
8. Living Sacrifice - Conceived in Fire
9. Martyr - Feeding the Abscess

I had 2 iPods, the death metal one, and the inspiring music one. The DM one was supposed to be used for the 2nd half only, but my "inspiring music" ipod meant for the first half randomly wouldn't work, so I had to listen to the DM one the whole time. haha... I spent the majority of the time listening to music, but the battery didn't quite last the whole way and I spent a little bit of time not listening to music.

Lessons learned:
1. Carry Advil.
2. 160-170 is a good heart rate range for a 50 miler and I can let it climb to 175 for a pretty long period of time on steep hills without screwing myself over.
3. In Cascade Crest 100, I'll try to keep it more at 155-165 and typically keep it under 170 on the climbs since 100 miles is still MUCH harder than 50 miles.
4. Ultras truly are all about confidence and mindset. Even if you are hurting, a little confidence and a positive outlook can take you a long way.

Ok, I think that's about it... Overall, I definitely did not enjoy this race as much as some other ultras (ie American River 50) due to the difficulty, but I think with more mountain training, I'll have the ability to really run well here, so I'll probably be back for more next year (despite the fact that I claimed at the finish that I would rather have any single body part surgically removed than have to run that hard of a 50 mile course again)

*****In case you're thinking about doing this yourself, here are my 2 most important pieces of advice:
1. Train in the mountains. Hill training will not be enough for a good performance in a race like this. I had LOTS of incredibly difficult mountain runs covering as much as 3000' of gain within a few miles and I still felt that I could've been more prepared for the finish. You will need VERY long extended climbs in your training; try to find something where you're going up steep climbs for 30 minutes plus or you're going to get rocked.
2. Train for the heat. If you have a sauna you can use, spend time in it. You don't need to actually run in it; just being in the sauna will help you with your acclimation. While you're in it, drink lots of water and eat salt for 2 reasons: a. to get your stomach ready to handle things when all of your blood is being diverted to your skin to cool you, b. to keep you from getting dehydrated, duh. If you don't have a sauna, run when it's hot out. Don't wimp out on training, it'll only hurt you in this type of race.
Rating the difficulty:
Heat: 4/5, it can break 100, but not by much. It's a little humid, but not terrible.
Technicality: 4/5: the rocky parts are tough, but there are some dirt road sections that have good footing (unfortunately, those are all incredibly hilly)
Hilliness: 4/5: They estimate around 8700 feet gain and loss; I need to check my Garmin when I get home, cause I bet it was a little more than that... Overall, even if it was like 10000', it could still definitely be worse.
Overall: 5/5, not from one individual factor, but from a combination. It's not like Badwater where the heat alone is enough to destroy you or Hardrock, where the elevation is ridiculous enough to give you problems, but it's bad in a number of ways, so it's overall an extremely challenging race.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Training, weeks of 7-20-09 and 7-27-09

The last 2 weeks have been incredibly light, mileage-wise.

The week of 7-20 was a bit unintentional, but after barely sleeping all week surrounding Badwater and spending a bit too much time in the sauna prepping for Mt Dis, without taking salt and probably getting a little bit dehydrated, my body was incredibly fatigued all week and I couldn't run all that well, so I had my lowest mileage week of the year.

Monday 7-20: 0 miles: Felt like crap, rested (maybe related to 20-26 minutes a day in the sauna for the last 4 days?)

Tuesday 7-21: 7 miles Was going to do a good track workout, ended up doing 1.5 warmup, 2x2 in horrible splits (11:30 range) with unbelievably high heart rate (up to high 180s, where as I can normally do 3 2 milers in about 11:15 keeping my heart rate in the 170s), so I called it a day before I hurt myself and just did another 1.5 cooldown very slowly. The fatigue and dehydration was the culprit I think.

Wednesday 7-22: 0 miles: felt like crap, rested

Thursday 7-23: Super easy 8 mile, avoided hills as much as possible, still over 8 minutes a mile

Friday: 12 miles Deseret News 10k plus long warmup and cooldown (about 3 a piece), felt like I wasn't affected nearly as much, but still split poorly and didn't run the kind of time I expected (35:08)

Saturday: 0 miles: woke up and felt like garbage, legs hurt worse than after most marathons.

Sunday 0 miles: legs were still a little sore, definitely could've run, but didn't want to push it with Mt Dis coming up.

Weekly total: 27 miles, but you know what, doing more would've been stupid. I felt sick (headaches, sneezing, coughing) and I was totally fatigued, so training hard would've set me back a lot.

Week of 7-27-09: This was a low mileage week as well (41 miles), but there was a lot of running that directly prepped me for Mt Dis and I covered an unbelieveable amount of elevation, so I'm actually quite happy with it. Doing anything very high mileage would've been a bad idea with the race coming next weekend and it would be too late to get much benefit from high mileage training anyway. What I focused on was mountains and confidence building runs. My energy levels seemed to be back, so while I had taken off the sauna training after last Monday, I started it again this Monday at lower levels (15-20 minutes a day at what I believe is ~185 degrees, enough to get some benefit, but not enough to mess me up)

Monday 7-27-09: 6 miles: Super super high intensity tempo on trails, was actually about a mile of warmup and a mile of cooldown sandwiching 4 incredibly intense miles. I threw in one of the steepest hills, covering only 5 or 600 feet of gain, but doing it at an average of 30-35% grade, hitting as high as 50%. I'm usually just happy to run the whole thing without stopping, so I was putting up 14:00/mile with a heart rate in the low 180s for most of the hill until the very end which levels to an easier 20% grade, which I ran pretty hard. I ran really hard for the rest of the run and managed to average in the 7:40s/mile, which sounds slow, but is still quite fast for a run with this much gain (about 1200 feet total in 4 miles). Average HR was mid 170s, max was 191 (pushed REALLY hard at the end), total gain: 1200 feet

Tuesday 7-28-09: 6 miles: 1.5 warmup, 1.5 cooldown, 3 miles of increasing pace on a track. Decided not to push the track workout hard at all compared to normal this week. Splits were 6:12, 5:46, 5:10. HR got to 181 on the 2nd mile, which is about 4 or 5 BPM higher than it should've been, but not nearly as high as the previous week and I've found that I can sustain higher heart rates for longer periods of time lately, so it wasn't a big deal. I hit 188 on the last mile, but I would've expected at least mid 180s at that pace, so it didn't really scare me to get that high.

Wednesday 7-29-09: 6 miles: Total quality run here despite the shortness: 5.5 in 72 minutes plus a quick cooldown. Sounds slow? That's because I covered 2350 feet of gain and loss, literally just running straight up a mountain and back down. That corresponds to about 43000 feet of gain over a 100 mile course. Hardrock, the hardest legitimate 100 miler in this country (not counting Barkley, which isn't really a real race) has something like 33000 and I'm willing to wager that the trails I did this on are WAY more technical than any part of that course (consider that in my slowest portion of the descent, it took me roughly 15 minutes to do a single mile since the course was so treacherous). I never stopped, walked, or anything, which doesn't sound all that impressive, but when the ascent takes 40 minutes and my average heart rate during that period is somewhere around 175-180 (well above 180 at the peak, where it's the steepest), I felt like that was an accomplishment.

Thursday 7-30-09: 9 miles: I decided up to up the ante from Wednesday and did 7 miles with a 1 mile warmup and 1 mile cooldown. I scaled 1 500 foot mini-peak, went down the backside, came back up, and then linked over to hit the same ascent I had done the previous day. Total was nearly 3000 feet of gain, once again never walked, which I was very proud of. However, that seemed to be a bad idea since I rolled my ankle fairly badly attacking one downhill and just kept running through it, which has made it somewhat sore for a couple days. Oh well, lesson learned, and at the very least, it built a heck of a lot of confidence for me.

Friday 7-31-09: 2 miles: Jogging pace, ankle was pretty sore, total gain: 100 feet.

Saturday 8-1-09: 7 miles: 75 minutes, 2200 feet of gain, high effort, ran a well groomed but steep trail the whole way except for one portion of descent that was so miserable that 1 mile took 20 minutes. I ran the whole way except a couple sections of the downhill, which could've caused me to fall off a cliff if I ran them (doesn't sound fun). While running a part of the downhill that I shouldn't have been running, I tripped on a rock, scraped the crap out of my right leg, splashed my perpetuem bottle open all over me (mostly my face), and literally flipped and rolled, so I'm lucky I didn't get hurt too badly. I stopped my watch and sat there to collect myself for a minute or 2 and carefully finished the descent before tempoing the finish back home as hard as I possibly could. Max HR 187, broke 185 on 3 different portions of the run.

Sunday 8-2-09: 5 miles: easy, did the loop around the outside of the neighborhood, which unfortunately still has at least one huge hill no matter how you run it, total gain: 700 feet.

Total: 41 miles, roughly 9500 feet of gain, about 8750 of that coming within 23.5 miles (Mt Dis is 8700 feet in 50 miles, so this is a major confidence booster). Overall, low mileage, but some extremely high quality. If I was doing all road running this week and spent the same amount of time at an equal effort level, I'd have done roughly 70 miles, so I consider this to be the perfect amount of running the week before my race.

Mt Dis 50 is coming up on Saturday and I think it should go well. I'd love to finish this in under 9 hours and I think it's definitely possible, but we'll have to wait and see. Times in ultras are extremely dependent on how hard the course is and I hear nothing but bad things about this one, so I don't want to get my hopes up. Only one person (Jorge Pacheco, who has the 2nd fastest time ever at Badwater, and the 2nd fastest ever trail 100 time, 13:16) has broken 8 hours here (he did a 7:42 last year), though some people with comparable marathon and 50 times to me have broken 9, so I think it's possible if I race well. Part of this race for me will be in experiment in blocking out what my body tells me and listening only to what my GPS/HR watch says. I've actually had a lot of success with it in training lately where I'll start to feel like crap going up a big hill, look down at my watch and see that my heart is still going at a maintainable rate and I can actually convince myself that I don't hurt as much as I know I do and keep going without lowering my effort. I have the feeling that that sort of mind-set will come into play a lot over the last 19 miles (with gradual 2000 foot climb without shade from 31 to 40 and a nasty 2000 foot climb in the last 5 miles), so if I can keep my mind from breaking down at all, I think I should do well. I'll just blast some good angry tunes from mile 31 onward and hope it's enough. :)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Afterthought from Deseret News 10k

Haha, so, I have more evidence that I ran like an idiot yesterday (beyond my first half being 2 minutes faster than my 2nd half). I woke up today and my legs felt worse than they have after a lot of my marathons. Yeah, bad pacing yesterday I guess...

Friday, July 24, 2009

Deseret News 10k race report

Important stuff:
Time: 35:08
Splits: HORRIBLE...
Mile 1: 5:04
Mile 2: 10:15 (granted the first 2 miles were pretty downhill compared to the rest)
5k (3.107 miles): 16:35 (a major uphill in here + intentionally slowing down)
Mile 4: 21:35 (starting to hurt a LOT)
Mile 5: 27:35 (totally dying)
10k: 35:08 (HR of 194 ever since mile 5, couldn't go any faster than 6:17/mile pace for last 1.2)

So, this morning, I ran in the Deseret News 10k. I'd been feeling like absolute crap after spending too much time in the 185 degree sauna over the last week, so I wasn't even sure that I was going to race, but I decided to just go for it last night. No, they don't normally have 10ks on Friday mornings in Utah, but today is Pioneer Day, a state-wide holiday that commemorates the day that Brigham Young and other Mormons made it in to the valley after a very long walk from halfway across the country in Illinois. I'm obviously not Mormon myself, but the perilous 1300 mile trek they made is definitely a pretty cool story and one worthy of remembrance. Anyway, some Mormon newspaper puts on a big 10k and marathon every year on Pioneer Day and while i didn't feel like doing a marathon at this point in the summer, this seemed like the one good opportunity to run a 10k comparable to sea level running due to a net downhill on the course that roughly evens out the elevation factor, according to the Jack Daniels calculator, which I've used quite a bit lately just to compare runs in Baltimore and Minnesota to runs here. Anyway, I've only ever done one 10k previously, which I felt went extremely poorly, probably mostly due to me having run it the weekend immediately after the Boston Marathon, a Monday race that I wasn't yet recovered from. My previous time was a 35:30 and I was hoping to run about a 34 flat here today. Unfortunately, I seem to really suck at pacing for a 10k. I went out too fast and didn't really contemplate my mistake until I hit the 2 mile split in 10:15 and my heart rate was already at something like 192. I backed off the pace in mile 3, but by that point it was already too late. I hit the 5k split in 16:35, 1 second off my official PR that I ran back in Minnesota recently and despite trying to back off, my heart rate was up 1 BPM more, at 193. At this point, I just mentally convinced myself to keep the effort as high as possible until the finish no matter how bad it hurt, and believe me, it was already starting to feel pretty painful by the 5k. I hit mile 4 in 21:35, which meant that I didn't fall off pace too horribly in the 4th mile, but the 5th mile took 6 minutes of misery, putting me up to 27:35. Funny enough, this was still faster than my 5 mile time I ran at Celtic Solstice in December (27:55), though I'd unofficially run a 26:59 on a treadmill previously under perfect pacing conditions (although treadmills are supposedly slightly easier than running on roads when you have them at a flat). Anyway, my heart rate hit 194 beats per minute around mile 5 and I'm not sure how, but I managed to keep it there for the entire last 1.2 miles, the agony of which was literally completely indescribable. Assuming my max is still 200 (and honestly, it's very possibly a beat or 2 lower than that since I haven't tested in 2 years or so), I was running at 97% of max for 1.2 miles, something which is usually saved for maybe a quarter mile, or at most, half mile sprint at the very end of a grueling race. Despite the net downhill, the last mile was entirely uphill and my body was completely trashed, so the last 1.2 miles took me 7:33, a pace of 6:17/mile, despite my dangerously high heart rate. Due to my piss-poor pacing job, I finished in 35:08, a far cry from the 34 flat I was looking for, but my ridiculous splits (16:35, 18:33) make it obvious that I'm capable of faster if I could just pace a little better. Officially, this is a PR, but I'm going to still consider myself to not have a 10K PR because I'm embarassed by this stupid of a performance. Lessons learned: 1. Do NOT race so fast in the first half of a 10k next time I attempt the distance. A more reasonable way to do it would be to keep my HR below 185 in the first half and then let it climb as the going gets tough int he 2nd half. 2. I apparently have an incredibly high tolerance for pain. Apparently, very few people can withstand having their HR that high for that long, so that's good to know that I'm able to take it like that and keep pushing when I feel like quitting, even if my pace goes to crap. I don't know when I'll try another 10k, but I think I should be a lot faster next time...

Training, week of 7-13-09, Badwater report

This is like way behind, so my bad if anyone was actually curious to read this...

7-13-09: 33 miles: pacing at Badwater (from mile 26 to 63 with 4 miles off at one point)

7-14-09: 29 miles: pacing at Badwater (from somewhere around 76-82 and 100-123)

7-15-09: off

7-16-09: off

7-17-09: 20 miles: 2 5 mile runs, somewhat long-ish trail routes to and from campus in the morning, 10 miles in PM, also, 20 minutes in sauna

7-18-09: 16 miles: 2x4 to and from campus, more direct route than previous day, 8 miles in PM, running with fuel belt, which TOTALLY sucks since it bounces everywhere unless you tighten it so much that it's basically cutting off all circulation, 22 minutes in sauna

7-19-09: 2 miles: laaaaaazy after sauna, ran just enough to get to 100 miles for the week, basically just down to the end of the street, slightly farther, and back... hahah..., 23 minutes in sauna

Weekly total: 100 miles.

Anyway, about Badwater:
I've told this story like x-million times now, probably anyone that actually cares to hear it, so I'll be brief. haha...

I went out to crew for Pierre Ostor. 1 hour before the race, we found out that another French guy, Alain Prost-Dumont, was missing 1 crew member due to something happening with customs (I'm not really sure what...). You can only run if you have 2 crew members or more and he was down to one, but there were 4 of us with Pierre and Pierre said it would be ok, so I offered to switch, which was obviously very good news for Alain and his only crew member Theo, who had spent some insane amount of money to get there (plane tickets for both of them and the other crew guy, rental van for 5 or 6 days, $795 entry fee, food, insane amounts of water, etc). I'm not sure how much they had total in supplies, but when Pierre and crew went out to buy supplies, he ended up with 25 gallons of water and 100 pounds of ice (ice being refilled during the trip, probably over 200 pounds total). Anyway, I ended up officially switching 10 minutes pre-race. In case you're wondering, Alain and Theo spoke nearly no English and I haven't spoken French since high school. I was fairly good at speaking it then, but it's been 5 or 6 years since my last class and it took awhile for it to come back. During the race, my vocabulary improved substantially just because I was forced to dig back into my memory so much, so I was a lot better by the end of the race, but still by no means fluent or even close. Anyway, Alain started off at 8 AM monday and ran pretty well with no problems for about the first 26 miles. Around 26, he threw up a bit (probably just because he was pushing a little too hard in the heat) and started to complain about his stomach, the heat, and his left leg. He really wasn't taking very much salt (no S!-caps or anything, just the electrolytes in one of his French sports drinks, which I was pretty sure wasn't close to enough). I decided around 26 to go and run with him for awhile. From 26 to around 36, things were ok, but he really started to cramp around 36 (which I suspected to be from the lack of sodium). 36 to 42 was incredibly slow, almost all walking, and he was in a lot of pain, so I just did my best to try to convince him to take more sodium, as well as giving him mental support through my poor French. The cramps got to their worst around mile 40, right around Devil's Cornfield, where the temperatures swelled to a sweltering 130 degrees or so. Being out there pacing with him, I was very thankful to have good sunglasses and an OR-brand SPF-30 hat with a long floppy face and neck cover, which shielded me from the intense 130 degree headwind, which literally felt like running into a hairdryer on at full power. At this point Theo and I finally said something like, "look, there is no alternative, you have to take the S!-caps", or in French, "Regardes, il n'ya pas d'alternative, c'est necessaire que tue prends les S!-caps". haha... Anyway, we got him taking them and he made it to mile 42's time station in Stovepipe Wells. At 42, at which point it was starting to get dark out, I ran into the convenience store, bought a ton of good food (milk, chocolate, yogurt, gatorade, 5-hour energy, which doesn't work for more than an hour by the way... total lie in the name..., etc) and called my family just to let them know of the change of plans and that I'd probably be up for at least 48 hours straight pacing/crewing if the pace didn't increase much. Anyway, by the time I got back in the car with Theo and drove down the road to find Alain, he had already made it 2 miles and was no longer cramping, thanks, I presume, to the 341 mg of sodium/s-cap we'd given him. I jumped out with a pleasantly full stomach and continued pacing him. Mile 42 to 60 was an 18 mile, 5000', climb up to Towne's Pass, the top of a mountain, but his pace was significantly improved from what it had been before. The only problem during this section was that he tended to break longer than other runners, so there was a lot of cat-and-mouse going on where we'd pass other people then take too long of a break, during which time they'd re-pass us, and then we'd go back out and repass them, etc. etc. I took a 25 minute nap in here while he was doing a mile and a half or 2 miles at one point, just to make sure i'd be nice and totally rested for the next day. Yeah, i'm kidding... It did nothing for me... Anyway, by 60, he'd passed a few people and he picked it up a lot on the descent, and by a lot, I mean, probably so much that it could've potentially messed up his quads. I ran with him from 60 to 63 and then said, all right, you're doing ok now and i've paced 33 of the past 37 miles, so I went back to the car to help Theo with the crewing. I ended up getting the better part of an hour of sleep at some point around mile 65 and when I woke up, it was just starting to get light out. He made it to the station at mile 72 in Panamint Springs by 7 AM I believe. The general prediction for the race is that the amount of time it takes to get from 0 to 72 is about equivalent to the amount of time it takes to get from 72 to 135 since there are 2 huge climbs in the last 63, but only 1 in the first 72, so we expected somewhere around 46 hours at this point. 60 to 72 had been almost entirely a descent from Towne's Pass down to 1000', so at 72, he had another long climb, which nearly leveled off somewhere in the low-80s, but still continued gradually uphill until the Darwin checkpoint at mile 90. I ran 6 miles from somewhere around 76 to 82 just to keep him going at this point and then helped Theo with crewing again until about 100. At the 100 mile mark, I got back out and ran until mile 123 in Lone Pine. This section was really where Alain started to pick up the pace. He was taking a good amount of sodium, his legs were doing ok, and he was running a fair amount, probably more than he was walking. The course was mostly downhill from 90 to 123, dropping from 5000' at Darwin to 3000' in Lone Pine, before the last major mountainous uphill, so I just went along with him right on the side of the road and everytime I thought that he was walking for a little too long, I'd say "Est-ce-que tu peux courir?", French for "Can you run?" and he'd start going again. We did really well about not letting him take many breaks in this section, so he made up a lot of time and passed a fair amount of runners. We ended up cathing up to Pierre around 110 or 115 and he was feeling pretty trashed, so we wished him luck and continued on. By mile 123, Alain was slowing down again and I decided to crew in the car rather than stay out for another number of hours on the course, mostly due to my horrible shoes and socks and the big blister I was developing on the inside my pinky toe on my right foot. I quickly grabbed some McDonald's at mile 123 and hopped in the car. I dozed off for about 10 minutes at one point while we were waiting on the side of the road for Alain, but that was it for sleep: a total of maybe an hour and a half during the entire race. Around mile 128, someone mentioned that there was a massive fire at the finish, so there was a new finish only about 1 mile ahead. Unfortunately, that person was clearly not a runner because we told this to Alain and continued to the finish to meet him there, which happened to be more like 3 miles ahead. 129 vs 131 might not sound like a big difference, but when you've gone 128 miles already, there's a huge difference between 1 more and 3 more. Anyway, Alain eventually made it up to the top and asked us to run across the line together as a team, which we did, and that was it. Alain finished in 40 1/2 hours or so, got his sub-48 buckle (which was switched to a sub-46 buckle due to the shortened course), his medal, and his finisher's t-shirt. I sat around and waited about 1 more hour, at which point Pierre finished and I got to go back to a nice spacious motel with him and his crew for a few hours of semi-restful sleep. Anyway, I obviously cut out some details, but I don't feel like writing more and it's already pretty long. I'm very much hoping that I'll be able to run it myself next year, so hopefully a year from now you'll be able to read my very own race report. They only let in 90 or so runners from a few thousand applicants every year, but having paced should help my application, which I feel is already reasonably strong. I have a few more very difficult races coming up in the remainder of the year that I think should help prove my worth and I'm leaning towards running Badwater's sister race, the Arrowhead 135, a 135-mile trek across frozen northern Minnesota in early February, to help cement my place in next year's event. That's all for now...