Saturday, February 28, 2009

Anyone want to pace the 2nd half of the B&A Marathon tomorrow?, Also, near future plans for training and racing

I wouldn't mind having a pacer. I really want to throw down a decent pr, so having a pacer in the 2nd half would be nice. Ideally, I want to break 2:50 tomorrow, but the weather could potentially prevent that from happening. It might be snowing a bit during the start, so things will depend on if anything accumulates, etc.

I've only done a few particularly serious runs in the last 2 weeks to make sure that I would be rested for this, so I hadn't posted any mileages yet, but I did do my first hill repeat session since November and, while each repeat felt fairly slow, my endurance was terrific and I felt good doing a pretty large number of them. I also got in a couple pretty long runs down in the Wasatch Mountains of Salt Lake City, Utah, last weekend when I visited the U of Utah Bioengineering program, my longest run there being almost 3 hours. The runs in the mountains felt good, the only issue being that I was just finally starting to break in my new orthotics and they were hurting my feet quite a bit. I think I'm used to them now finally though, so I doubt I'll have any orthotics-related issues while racing tomorrow.

Anyway, my near future schedule looks like this:

Tomorrow (3-1-09): B&A Marathon

Next Saturday (3-7-09): Seneca Creek Greenway Trail 50k (I'm not 100% sure if I'm going to "race" race this... Last year I just did a good training run at the marathon since it was only $20 to enter, but if I feel recovered enough, I'll probably take it out pretty hard and see what happens)

Rest of March: HARDCORE training. I'm going to be doing only 1 or 2 long runs a week, but my saturday run every week will be VERY long, ie at least a marathon and a half. Ideally, I would like to do a 50 to 60 mile trainer on 3-14 and 3-21, but I don't know if I'll have the balls and/or recovery speed from weekend to weekend to pull it off. During the week, I'll be focusing on speed, trying to do around 3 tempo/hill/speed interval sessions every week in addition to other runs. I'm going to try to hit a couple 15 to 20 mile tempo runs here and there at a considerably faster pace than what I need to do when I race. These will probably hurt quite a bit/almost as much as racing, but this is the kind of training I need to do. I want to be faster and more explosive at Boston and I definitely want to be posting under 2:50 by then if I don't hit that sort of time tomorrow. Additionally, I will be racing a 10k the weekend after Boston, which for several reasons, is a very important race to me. I've actually never raced a 10k before somehow and I have some very big plans for my debut of the distance. I'm not going to go into it too much, but suffice it to say that there will very likely be a showdown between myself and some huge morons that need to be knocked down a couple pegs (if they have the balls to show up and race me). I'm not usually cocky about racing other people and I don't usually enter races to blow up other people's egos, but this is a bit of an interesting situation, so I'll just leave it at that. Anyway, one other race that falls in at the beginning of April is Sacramento, California's American River 50 Mile Endurance Run. I just ran a 50+ miler in November and did reasonably well, but I think that an unfortunate stomach problem involving me puking EVERYWHERE cost me valuable time. AR50 is legitimately 50 miles while the other course was a bit long, my training has been absolutely perfect for 50 mile ultras over the past few months and I'm in much better shape now, and I'm not planning on throwing up and losing all my nutrients at AR50 (fingers crossed), so I think that I have the ability to drop a LOT of time off my PR there. Ideally, I'd want to break 7 1/2 hours there, despite having run 8:42 in November. If things go right, I think it's completely feasible. The much easier (and slightly shorter) course, much better endurance and conditioning, better nutrition plan, and overall better game plan going into the race this time ought to help me out quite a bit.

I'll post some mileages for the last 2 weeks after I race tomorrow.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Training for Weeks of 2-2-09 and 2-9-09

I don't really feel like writing a lot more, so I'm not going to post much about many of these runs.

Week of 2-2-09
Monday: 4 miles, very easy
Tuesday: 5 miles, very easy
Wednesday: 2 miles, very easy
Thursday: rest
Friday: rest
Saturday: 100 miles, Rocky Raccoon 100 mile Endurance Run, see last post for report
Sunday: rest after finishing race at 4:57 AM and only sleeping for 10 minutes
Total: 111 miles

Week of 2-9-09
Monday: 7 miles, VERY easy, took about an hour
Tuesday: 11 miles, long druid hills loop plus to from and around campus, not super fast, but not terribly slow, a bit under 7 minutes a mile
Wednesday: 5 miles, sort of an illegitimate run... I ran back home from dinner with people from the Cellular and Molecular Medicine PhD program at the JHU School of Medicine since I didn't feel like waiting around for a shuttle. Unfortunately, I was wearing slim-fit jeans and Sperry dock/boat shoes with no arch, so it was a bit uncomfortable, but whatever..., didn't time
Thursday: 7 miles, druid hills, high 6's per mile
Friday: 0 miles, didn't have time to run
Saturday: 39 miles, ran from my house to the edge of DC, took a train back, and then ran home from Penn Station, a total of about 5 1/2 hours running, so it was a reasonable pace for the distance.
Sunday: 8 miles, tempo work around druid hills, back to campus, and then back home, VERY fast for the distance, mid 5's per mile.
Total: 78 miles, a great week after coming off a 100 mile race...

Race Report for Rocky Raccoon 100 Mile Endurance Run

So, this past weekend, I finally ran the Rocky Raccoon 100 Mile Endurance Run, something that I'd been talking about and training for over the past few months. Of all the ultramarathons I've run, I had more training time specifically devoted to Rocky Raccoon than any other previous race, so this was a pretty important race for me. When I ran the first of my 2 marathons of the fall back in October, I was in pretty bad shape and I just hadn't been training properly. As a result, I ran extremely poorly and totally faded in the 2nd half of the race. I wanted to have a huge race on the radar neaer the end of winter/beginning of spring so that I'd have to get back into top form over the fall/winter, so I chose Rocky Raccoon after hearing that it was one of the "easier" 100 mile runs in the country. A 100 mile run is never easy obviously, but at least compared to other more mountainous runs, Rocky is definitely less difficult, so it was a good pick.

A lot of my training for Rocky came in really cold conditions either in Baltimore or in Minnesota. When I was home in Minnesota on break, we posted wind chills in the negative 40s a couple times and even the straigh temperature was negative more often than not, so I had to do a good chunk of my training on treadmills to avoid freezing to death out in the cold. My long runs consequently suffered a bit since even a 20 mile run on a treadmill is enough to make me go out of my mind. I did still get some marathon-length runs in on warmer (single digit temp) days, and maintained my fitness reasonably well. While in Baltimore, I posted a good amount of mileage and while training for this run, I posted days with more than a marathon's worth of running at least 10-15 times, sometimes running 2 marathon length runs in one week. My longest training run building for this specific race was a 50+ mile race in Boston in November.

On to the actual race... After a huge 3 week taper, during which I only ran one 20+ mile run, I flew down to Houston. I flew out on the same flight as fellow runner Dave Ploskonka and we met another runner, Matt Condron, and his wife, in Houston. Unfortunately, we landed at different Houston airports without realizing it, so Dave and I had to wait around at Houston Hobby Airport for awhile before we finally realized that we were at Hobby and they were at Bush. After finally straightening things out and driving up to Huntsville State Park, where the race was to take place, we had a pre-race briefing and then went to sleep pretty early. My bed of choice was the floor in the trunk of the rental car, which wasn't big enough, so I just left the door open and stuck my feet out the back. This might seem like a bad place to sleep before running 100 miles, but compared to some previous sleeping arrangements I've endured for the sake of running, such as a hard cement floor without a pillow or soaking wet grass with no sleeping bag, this definitely was not all that bad.

I woke up at 5 AM the day of the race after getting 8 to 8 1/2 hours of sleep. I changed into my running clothes and got my water bottles, headlamp, and electrolyte and food supplies ready to go. The race started at 6, so I got to the line ready to go literally as the gun was going off. Unfortunately, I started behind some pretty slow runners and the beginning of the trail was quite narrow, so it took me awhile to get to the part of the pack that I should've been in.

The race consisted of 5 20 mile loops and I ran the first loop pretty fast, probably much faster than I should've, coming through in 3:10 or 3:15. The first loop was pretty uneventful other than a ton of people around me tripping over the roots in the dark. I made sure to learn from everyone else's mistakes and I watched the ground the whole time through the bad parts, which kept me from falling. None of the hills were particularly bad, but there were a few sections that definitely rolled up and down quite a bit more than I expected for a "very flat" course as I had been told. No matter what though, the first loop felt very comfortable.

I started on the 2nd loop at about 3:20 after eating for 5 or 10 minutes. After 5 or 10 miles into the 2nd loop, I started to realize that it was getting uncomfortably hot. By 11 or 12 AM, the temperature spiked to 80 and, with the high humidity, it got pretty uncomfortable. I realized that while I had trained a pretty healthy amount of mileage, I didn't have any heat training within months, so the high temperatures were a bit of a shock for me. While 80 degrees would be nothing during the summer, I was not ready for it in the middle of winter. I decided to just play it safe and I intentionally kept the lap pretty slow so I wouldn't die out later. Giving myself ample breaks to drink LOTS of fluids at every aid station, I came across the end of the second loop in 7:50 or so, markedly slowing from my fast first lap. I didn't feel particularly good at the end of the 2nd lap and I felt that things were not going particularly well at that point. The heat was starting to wear on me much earlier than I wanted and there wasn't a lot I could do about it. I was really craving chocolate milk and fortunately someone was able to give me a Nesquik that they had in a cooler, so that really hit the spot and gave me the boost I needed.

Starting on the 3rd loop after a long-ish break, I immediately felt better after having the chocolate milk. I didn't really push it in the first half of the lap since it was still pretty hot, but the sun was at enough of an angle by the 2nd half of the loop that I was able to speed up quite a bit. I sometimes like to surge for a few miles just to keep my legs from getting too used to going slow, so I pushed pretty hard from miles 50 to 55 before deciding that I should probably slow down given that I still had 45 miles to run. I played it safe for the last 5 miles of the loop and came across the 60 mile point in somewhere around 12:30. I actually felt better at 60 than I had at 40, which was almost certainly due to the fact that the temperatures had gone down.

The 4th loop was definitely an interesting test of endurance. Since the race was running in February, the sun obviously went down a bit earlier than it would in Summer. Starting into the 4th loop, the sun was going down. Typically, when the sun is going down, it means that you're near the end of the race, but I still had 40 miles to go in this one. I knew mentally that I still had a lot of running left, but I had this innate feeling that I was almost done, which definitely could've become quite dangerous if not kept in check. I ran the first bit of the loop fairly conservatively once again, but I absolutely surged from 66 to 72, hitting 68 to 72 in 27 minutes. Obviously, this was a pretty dangerously stupid idea, but I just felt like having some fun for a bit and I was definitely at a higher point of the run, so it didn't seem to be that bad of an idea. After the surge, I kept the rest of the lap relatively slow.

Starting into the 5th lap, I began to have some issues. I was getting really tired and starting to stumble all over the place. I wasn't really sure why, but I began to trip over a lot of the roots and it was really messing with my stride. After a few miles, I realized that my handheld flashlight was really starting to die out and, because I have a complete POS Petzl headlamp, my field of vision was just terrible. By mile 87, just a mile after the 6-mile aid station and 5 miles short of the 12 mile aid station, my handheld completely died out and I couldn't see worth crap. I tried running and by the time I hit my face on a tree branch, I realized that I needed to walk until I could get a new battery. Finally, when I was within 1/2 mile of the next aid station, I finally came across someone with a spare AA battery, so I got my handheld working again. Unfortunately though, my legs had cramped so much by that point that running was extraordinarily painful.

The last 8 miles after that point were an absolute hell. I wanted to just walk it in for the rest of the race and I had an excuse to do so since I had cramped so badly, but I knew that I needed to keep my pace at a slow jog at the very least if I wanted to PR and break my previous time of 23:09. I stopped for about 10 seconds just to fill my water bottle at each of the last 2 stations (12 and 16 miles into the loop) and took off as fast as possible to make sure that I'd make it under 23 hours. Even by mile 97 and 98, I remember thinking that I was still unsure if I was going to finish since my quads were burning so badly and every step was pure torture, but I somehow just kept going until I made it in with 22:57 on the clock. I wasn't sure that I would finish with a PR until I was literally close enough to the finish line that I could have tripped and fallen over it.

Once I made it to the finish, I could barely even stand up and I immediately sunk into a chair and just sat there for awhile. I dozed off for about 10 minutes, but that was all the sleep I got for the night since it was already almost 5 AM when I finished. I was expecting a ridiculously long recovery since I had to push myself so incredibly hard over the last bit of the race, but somehow I managed to be back out running again the next day and somehow felt good enough for a 39 mile trainer run from Baltimore to DC within 6 days of finishing, so I guess my body somehow recovers remarkably fast. I guess I have to thank the incredible amount of protein shakes and glutamine-fortified Recoverite by Hammer Nutrition that I had over the few days after the run.

In hindsight, I learned several valuable lessons from this race:

1. No matter how many miles you have in the bank from training, it is incredibly important to train for the weather conditions you will experience during the race. I was not ready for the heat and it definitely showed.

2. I need to fuel better and take more electrolytes. I really like the analogy of the human body during an endurance race to a car. The food is the fuel and the electrolytes are like the motor oil. If you don't have proper amounts of either, your performance will suffer. Whether you're running on fumes or you don't have enough oil, your car is going to give you issues, and the body works similarly. I didn't take enough electrolytes during the heat of the day and the few times that I had cramps, they were REALLY bad. My legs were twitching completely uncontrollably near the end of the race and simple electrolyte supplementation could've helped out with that quite a bit. I'm not really sure how I fell behind on the electrolytes, I guess I just underestimated how much I needed since I usually get away with almost nothing in most races of 50 miles or shorter. Also, with the food, that is easily correctable. When you're in a lot of pain, any sort of food sounds horrible, but it's still as important as ever to eat properly in those situations. By the end of the race, I was eating almost nothing and I almost thought I was going to fall over and not be able to get back up at a few particularly bad points. Fortunately, I didn't end up having any issues, but I need to be more careful in the future.

3. While my training mileage was pretty good, I need a higher emphasis on longer runs, rather than day in and day out training. When training for my first 100 miler 18 months ago, I had 3 other ultras leading up to it in the 2 months prior to the race. I didn't have a lot of training runs of more than a marathon, but the other races served as excellent trainers, especially considering that I had 2 60+ mile runs in there. This time, I had just as much mileage and ran my training at a higher intensity for the most part, but I only had 1 ultra and 1 trail marathon in the 3 months prior to the race. I had more runs of longer than a standard marathon, but my longest run that was specifically part of the buildup for this race was a single 50 mile race and that is definitely not enough. For my future 100s, I'm going to have to be a bit more balls-to-the-walls about my training tactics and throw in some good 50, 60, or 70 mile trainers. This will mean running for an entire day on a Saturday or something to train up, but that's what I need to do, so that's what I'm going to do. I have a huge 65-ish miler that I have planned for mid-March and I'm going to hit a couple really big 50+ers in late April through mid May, so I think that for my next 100 miler in June, the distance will feel slightly less out of the norm.

4. Always carry an extra battery and don't rely on a lowest-tier Petzl headlamp. I still can't believe I paid $30 for that garbage Petzl headlamp that I have. I'm going to be replacing it in time for my next racing excursion and I will make sure that I carry a battery for replacement in a handheld if necessary. This is definitely an easy and obvious way to make racing less painful next time.

Overall, I'm not too unhappy with my performance, though I feel that changing a few things could've led me to a considerably faster time. I still PRd slightly and I learned some lessons that will help me to race better in my 3rd 100 miler this coming June. I'll post a couple pictures shortly...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Rocky Raccoon report coming shortly...

I've been slacking on finishing my write-up/haven't had any time due to graduate interviews, but it'll be finished and online in the next 2 days or so. The short story: I made it through in 22:57, a PR by 12 minutes. Obviously, it wasn't as fast as I wanted, but the course was adjusted this year and definitely slower than before, I also suffered some problems related to not fueling properly, and it was pretty hot, so I think those factors slowed me down a bit. I'm not terribly unhappy with my race by any means since I finished and still slightly pr'd, but I'll discuss the merits and problems of my race in much more depth in the race report.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Rocky Raccoon 100 is almost here.

So, 2 days from now, I'll be running the big 100 mile race. The last several months of my life have been very focused on this specific event, so I ran a tremendous amount of miles throughout the 2nd half of October, November, December, and the first half of January to prep for this. I've been tapering the last few weeks and it's going to pay off this weekend. I'm going into the race with an incredible endurance base, but still managing to have very fresh legs, thanks to my extended taper. The one serious long run I've done in the past 3 weeks was last weekend and I felt absolutely EXPLOSIVE.

This is probably the most confident I've ever felt for any sort of 50+ mile race and I'm sure that, barring any injuries, I am going to run a massive PR this weekend. In fact, just to boost my confidence even more, I've decided to unretire my Falls Road Racing Team red jersey that I last wore when I broke 3 hours at the Boston Marathon last April. As nasty as this sounds, I've never washed it since then, in part to preserve how glorious I felt when I crossed the finish line under 3 hours at the world's most prestigious marathon. It's been hanging on my wall with salt from my sweat still crusting its sides ever since then. I don't believe in good luck charms or any of that nonsense, but I feel like just wearing the jersey while I race at Rocky will help me to always think about all of the best performances I've had in the past and how much Rocky Raccoon deserves a place among them after all of the arduous training I've put in specifically geared at this sole race.

Everytime I've started thinking about Rocky over the past few days, I've felt adrenaline just pulsing through me and I can literally feel my heart rate and blood pressure rising. The time has come for me to race and I am literally in the best shape of my life right now. The long part of this race was the last 3-4 months of training and all that remains is the short part: less than one day's worth of running on Saturday. In a 100 mile race, a lot of things can go wrong; you can have stress fractures, twisted joints, dehydration and heat stroke, kidney failure, hyponatremia, and you can even die, but the fact that I've trained incredibly well makes me supremely confident that my body, and even more importantly, my mind, are much stronger than anything this course can throw at me.

I'm not going to go into specifics about my strategy since I could write about that for hours and I'm sure that I will already write about this race for hours after I finish it in a massive personal record time. Here is what is important: this race and these trails will not defeat me. No matter what happens, I will continue on until I finish no matter what the cost.

The next time I post, I will be describing my conquest over a formidable 100 mile course. It will have proven to be a powerful foe, but I will have defeated it in such a conclusive way that I will be forced to declare this the greatest race I will have ever run at this point in my life.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Weeks of 1-19-09 and 1-26-09

Neither of these past 2 weeks were particularly high mileage. The focus of each week was just on getting my body as recovered and healthy for next weekend's race as possible. I decided not to post anything last week since my mileage wasn't very high and there just wasn't really much to post. I did 40 and 52 miles in the 2 weeks, which is really low for me right now and only a few of the runs are worth really mentioning in much detail.

Week of 1-19-09:
Monday: 12 miles: Towson loop. I had done 36 miles the day before and this wasn't all that bad, but the fact that it had snowed a lot during the day made it less tolerable. I think I was more sore after this than I was the previous day. I still managed to do the run fairly fast and was around mid 6's per mile.

Tuesday: 4 miles: Quite sore from doing 48 miles in the last 2 days, especially with the previous day in the snow, so I just ran to the gym to lift, ran around campus, and then ran home, untimed, slow.

Wednesday: 7 miles: Zoo loop, very easy, untimed.

Thursday: 9 miles: Was going to do one more long run, but decided after a couple miles to keep it short and turned around early. I was pretty sore and I needed to start recovering, so I decided that a long run wouldn't be beneficial to me much anymore. I had run around campus, the Gilman trail, and a bit farther up Charles before coming back along the trail and going back to Hampden.

Friday: Rest.

Saturday: 8 miles: a bit of a long zoo loop, easy, untimed.

Sunday: Rest.

Total: 40 miles. Feeling a bit better already by the end of the week, especially after only doing 8 miles over Friday-Sunday.

Week of 1-26-09:
Nothing timed unless noted otherwise.
Monday: 7 miles, Gilman loop from Hampden, easy.

Tuesday: 7 miles zoo, easy.

Wednesday: 9 miles, can't recall what my run was... I'll edit this if I remember. I have 9 miles logged, but didn't make a note of where I went. All these easy runs seem to blend in to one another... lol...

Thursday: Rest, flying out to ASU.

Friday: 6 miles, tempo. This was my first fast run in a while and I felt almost completely better after all my rest, tapering, and easy runs. I did about 6 minutes per mile and I ran this down in Arizona by the ASU campus. I definitely could've gone faster still, but I didn't feel like really pushing myself into oblivion since I wasn't at 100% yet.

Saturday: Rest, did some fun hiking down in Arizona though.

Sunday: 23 miles of crazy trails (oops...), 3:05. I had said that I wasn't going to do more than a half marathon or so on Sunday, but the amazing trails I hiked on Saturday in Phoenix got the best of me and I went for a little over a 3 hour run on Sunday. Atlantic Ocean 4-woman rowing world record holder Sarah Kessans brought me out to the South Mountain Park, about 7 or 8 miles away from campus, and she mountainbiked with me as I ran. Some of the course was way too technical to ride on a bike, so I spent roughly 10 minutes of the run standing around at summits waiting for her to catch up, which I didn't really mind cause my heart rate was almost always through the roof by the time I got to the top of any of those climbs. I ran a bunch of National Trail, which is considered one of the most technical and well-known trails in the country apparently and spent additional time on the Mormon Trail and the Desert Classic Trail. I felt great at the end, probably partly thanks to the couple gels I ate during the run, one of them containing 100 mg of caffeine (that's a lot in case you don't know...). I feel like I could've done around 35-40 miles at the pace before I would've had to slow down, so that's a good sign for Rocky Raccoon this coming weekend, which will be run considerably slower. My favorite part of the run was definitely racing up the steepest ascent of National right before the end of the run, covering roughly 1000 feet of gain in under 6 minutes. Wow did I have to stop to catch my breath before I tore right back down the trail... Sarah was really fun to run with and it sounds like there are a ton of other really cool endurance athletes down at ASU, so it would probably be an amazing place for my training (not to mention my PhD... haha...) This may have been the single most fun run I've ever done, but the one downside was that a ton of time spent sitting down in the plane on the way home a couple hours later, caused some really irritating cramping in my legs. Oh well... Either way, it was probably stupid to do this long of a run 6 days before Rocky Raccoon, but I'm still glad that I did and I wouldn't change the run even if I could.

Total: 52 miles. I was a bit sore on Sunday night when I got back, but that run was well worth it. I'm not worried about still being sore at Rocky, so it shouldn't matter, as long as I'm not crazy and doing long runs in the next couple days.