Friday, April 7, 2017

6 years to 100 miles

I have pretty much laid off running ultras since the twins were born in 2013.  I survived the last few in the spring of 2014 and they were all fairly short (MST 50k, Uwharrie 40M) that did not require huge amount of training that would have taken too much time away from the family.  After moving to Colorado Springs in October 2015, this trend continued to the point that I was hardly running races of any distances anymore.  I did continue to participate with my relay team Team Road Kilt in 2015 at Blue Ridge Relay and also in 2016 at Hood 2 Coast.  It was at the finishing line party at Hood 2 Coast where things would change.

I have gotten used to running 6 legs at relay races, but the 2016 Hood 2 Coast race was done as 12 runner team so I only had 3 legs to run.  I took it pretty easy in the summer of 2016, working on projects in our new house such as building fence.  I also did more hiking than running and as August approached I thought about walking the 3 legs.  The relay itself wasn't terribly taxing.  The legs were either flat or gentle rolling even though the scenery were sort a let down after running the Blue Ridge Relay for so many years.  The finishing party however was pretty cool, right on the beach and Bob even waded out into the cold Pacific Ocean for a nice soak.  We were all sitting along the long tables drink beer when Tina said hey are you interested in running the Umstead 50 with me next year.  I was like hmm...not way I could be ready or train for it so I dodged the question saying there is no way Jade will let me do that.  I went back to my beer for a few minutes then Tina said I just texted Jade and she said go ahead.  Oh Crap!

In September in another subconscious attempt to avoid running the race, I tried to register for the race on my phone while fishing in the mountains.  It totally didn't work and I was secretly hoping Tina did not get in the race.  But a few minutes later I got a text from her "I'm in!".  Oh Crap!

I knew there is another way to get in, and now that Tina is in, I'm sort of committed to at least try.  I filled out the volunteer lottery form and send it in.  A couple weeks later I got the confirmation email that I'm in.  Oh Crap!

I had a heart to heart discussion with Jade about the race.  She and I both agreed, that if I'm going to put the training in, and she had to sacrifice with the kids while I run, then I should go for the 100 and get it done this time.  I sat down in front of a calendar and spreadsheet and mapped out a 6 months training schedule.  I may not be much of a runner, but I sure know how to write training plans.

Fortunately for me, the winter of 2016/2017 is rather mild.  We did get a few cold spills in December where I had to run in single digits temperature in the snow but most long runs are in fairly moderate temperature.  I finally stopped goofing around the mountain trails and settled on a training course that  closely approximately the Umstead course.  Rampart Range road climbs gradually but consistently from Garden of the Gods at 300 ft per mile.  It's a wide dirt road that's closed to traffic in the winter.  I would park at the gate, power hike up just past 3 miles for 1,000 ft of elevation gain, then run back down to the car to refuel.  It's about 87.5% steeper than Umstead but provide the same surface, same type of walking and running and same refueling schedule so it'll do.  I did my longest training run in late January, 37 miles in 7 hours and 40 minutes.

Then I got sick, bacterial sinusitis from my kids, that took me out for two weeks and I lost 4 lbs while doing nothing.  Training restarted in middle of February for two weeks, then on February 22nd disaster strike.  

We took the kids to skiing in Loveland where there is an awesome area for kids with magic carpet ride and a super easy chair lift area.  We brought out all the snacks and drinks with us to the bottom of the magic carpet ride.  While taking a break with the kids and sitting on the snow, I twisted around to reach for the backpack to get some food out for them and I felt a sharp pain in the right knee.  I didn't think much of it figured it'll go away, and it did go away and I was able to ski with the kids rest of the day without pain.  Then next day I went for a 13 mile trail run and had a hard time walking that evening.

A week and half later, I still couldn't run more than 10 miles without pain, with downhills bothering it the most.  A long chat with my friend Lauren convinced me to get some PT help.  On my first appointment with the PT on March 10th, she said I partially tore the tendon above the knee, the quadriceps tendon.  Recovery time with rest and PT is usually 6 weeks.  I looked the calendar in the PT's office and counted the weeks: from February 22nd to April 1 is five and half weeks.

My PT is hopefully and started an aggressive therapy plan with massages and acupuncture, and I do stretching and strengthening on my own.  After two weeks, I did a 5 miles run and experienced very little soreness.  With one week to go I did the longest run, 9 miles and again very little soreness on the right knee.  However I have avoided all downhills running so far.  PT and I discussed and agreed that I should start the race, and as long as the pain is manageable I should continue, but stop if the pain is severe enough where I have trouble standing.

I flew to Raleigh on Thursday evening and spent Friday hanging out with my cousin and his family.  Instead of resting and staying off my feet, I chased my two nephews around the house and had a great time.

A lot people asked what my race plan is and what time I expect to finish.  With the knee injury, I basically have no idea how the weekend will unfold.

The race weekend's weather is nearly perfect, high in the mid 70's on Saturday and low around 50 Saturday night to Sunday morning.  I rode to the race with Bob and Tina, and Bob will crew for both of us.  Tina had pacers lined up for all 4 laps in the 2nd 50.  I on the other hand only had Sherri lined up for lap 6, and that was Sherri's initiative.  I didn't actively arrange pacers because I didn't want the pressure.

Lap 1: Tina and I started together and we ran most of the minor hills and walked two major hills to AS2.  I kept the pace pretty slow worried that I may drag her along too fast.  She had to visit the porta potty as AS2 and I went on by myself.  I did eat a little bit as AS2 but since they mainly had breakfast type of food I didn't eat much.  The right knee was already making its presence felt and I was getting worried how the race will unfold.  Finished the lap at 2:23 on the clock.  I asked Bob for two ibuprofen tablets and grabbed some food to from AS1 to go.

Tina and I approaching AS2 on Lap 1


Walking up to AS1 at end of lap 1
Lap 2: Ibuprofen didn't kick in for another 40 minutes so the first 3 miles I still felt the knee but between mile 3 and 4, the pain disappeared and I was feeling much better.  Okay, if ibuprofen can keep the pain at bay, maybe I'll have a shot at this.  I kept a good pace on lap 2, running up all the small and gentle hills even on Turkey Creek, and only walked the major hills.  Toward the end of the lap, it was starting to get warm.  I made a mental check list of what I need to do at end of the lap: caffeine, food, water bottle.  Bob again greeted me and walked up to AS1 with me to help me carry some food while we talked about my race and Tina's race.  Jen checked the time and told me to slow down for the next lap and I agreed.  By now AS1 is making real food so I grabbed half a cheeseburger and some mountain dew.  Run time: 4:47, lap 2 took 2:24 which is about the same as lap 1.

Lap 3: I focused on slowing down and it was definitely getting warm.  I did see Tina right at the airport water fountain and noticed her pace was still pretty fast so I told her to slow down.  I noticed a few miles into the lap that the right knee is starting to strain again.  Started doing some mental calculation and decided to take two ibuprofen every 1.5 laps.  This will give me a total 5 doses of 400 mg and total daily dose of 2000 mg.  This is fairly high especially considering the stress I'm putting my kidney through, but I didn't have any other choices.  Still running strong on this lap, I did take a longer stop as AS2 since I felt somewhat queasy right as I arrived as AS2 and thought maybe I need a #2 relieve.  End up with just a lot of gas though.  I didn't get the burger but rather some milder food as AS2 with ginger ale to sooth the stomach.  Still ran up some hills but this lap is a good bit slower due to the heat.  Finished the lap and once again chatting with Bob as AS1 while I grabbed a burger and dew.  Run time: 7:24, lap 3 took 2:37.  I assured Jen that I was slowing down and she said just be careful with the heat.  

Lap 4: once again the focus is to stay slow.  At the airport spur I ran into Lisa, Dottie and Ricky on their bikes, it was very cool to see them and talk to them.  I told them to ride into AS1 to find Tina since she should be finishing lap 3 soon.  I was hoping to see Tina coming up Graylyn as I ran by the intersection but no cigar.  Rest of lap 4 was fairly uneventful and I took my ibuprofen a mile or 2 before I finished the lap.  I had gotten into the habit of eating the cheeseburger out of AS1 and eating a lighter meal out of AS2, mainly little bites of sandwhichs, pbj, and cantaloupes.  By now I had increased my AS1 food intake to a full cheeseburger with ketchup and mustard, and a handful of potato chips and mountain dew with ice.  Told Bob I was feeling food and looking forward to a cooler lap.  Run time: 10:14.  Lap 4 took 2:50.  

Lap 5: the temperature is definitely cooling down and I felt better.  Sticking to the ibuprofen schedule and I noticed that I need to take the dose a couple miles early to keep the effect going.  I ran into Wayne Jones on his bike and he end up riding with me for two miles down Corkscrew and up the Lake hill while we chatted and caught up, it was so nice to see friends in the park.  I ran the next 2 miles with a runner from Denver named Patrick and he told me about Never Summer 100k which has been on my radar for awhile.  Right before AS2, we rounded a bend and woman saw as and screamed in joy.  I asked Patrick if that was his wife and he said he has no idea who she is.  Then I realized it was Kristen!  Awesome.  She and I ran down to AS2 together and she checked on me and we made plan for breakfast on Tuesday.  I lost Patrick so I finished rest of the lap on my own still feeling okay and looking forward to lap 6 and Sherri.  Run time: 13:04, lap 5 took 2:50 which is exactly the same as lap 4!  And bonus: first frappuccino at end of Lap 5!

Lap 6: Sherri started pacing me.  I had her carry my jacket in case I got cold and we both carried headlamps out on this lap.  It's so nice to have someone to talk to for the whole lap and Sherri brought me up to date on her running, her march to DC, and her dog.  I was still feeling good enough to run up some gentle hills by this lap.  It got dark shortly before AS2 so we both put our headlamps on.  Most of lap 6 were pretty good but the right knee is definitely getting more painful despite ibuprofen, and both feet are getting painful, the soles were getting tired of the pounding I guess.  As I finished lap 6, I heard a huge cheer as the timing tent and realized my old neighbor Meredith was there cheering me!  I missed hanging out with them since we moved!  Run time: 16:18, lap 6 took 3:14.  

Meredith and I at end of Lap 6

Lap 7: I had a long stop before lap 7, changing into long pants, adjusting the knee brace, adding a jacket, and generally fumbled around Bob's truck for too long.  I think we stopped for close to 15 to 20 minutes.  Sherri had decided to pace me for lap 7 as well while Bob promised he'll find someone for lap 8 for me.  By now ibuprofen had became fairly useless and both feet were hurting badly that I didn't want to run anymore so we made this lap a pure walking lap.  I really struggled with the knee on the back half on Turkey Creek and decided to take 600 mg of ibuprofen instead of 400, and took it 3 miles before the end of the lap.  At this point, it's time to put everything on the table.  The lap ended slowly.  I still don't know if I had a pacer for lap 8 but I was determined to finish even if I had to go alone.  Sherri wanted to pace again on lap if there was no one else but I really hate to make her do that.  Run time: 20:15, lap 7 took 3:57, way too long.  

Lap 8: Tim showed up super excited to pace me.  Awesome!  Tim is hilariously funny and I knew this is gonna be a good lap.  Another burger and off we went.  Somewhere around mile 4 I decided to pop two more ibuprofen. Jeez, pray the kidneys don't rebel.  The pain in the knee is getting pretty bad and I cuss a lot of things.  The pain in the feet is also getting pretty bad and more cussing ensues.  Tim tells me all sorts of funny things, and the stripper joke just about landed me on my face and definitely took my attention away from the pain for awhile.  Tim also kept watching my pace and kept me informed that I'm averaging very consistently 16:30 to 17 min paces.  By the time we hit north Turkey Creek I was feeling somewhat confident that I may just finish this thing under 24 hours.  After we hit the bottom of Powerline hill, the reality hits that I'll get this done.  Only three uphills and one short downhill at end stand between me and the finish.  We put on cruise mode and by the time we made the turn at airport water fountain, I was getting a bit of teary.  Finally we get to Bob's truck and Tim was trying to find them but I wasn't about to stop.  I fairly flew up the last little hill and into the finishing line at 23 hours, 49 minutes and 15 seconds!  


Sherri and Tim with me at the finish
It took 6 years, but I finally completed 100 miles!




Saturday, March 12, 2016

Pikes Peak Marathon

I first learned about Pikes Peak Marathon when I was researching about Umstead Trail Marathon's elevation profile in 2010 and came across Anthony's popular post that compared some famous marathons to Umstead.  Ever since then I had wondered about the prospect of running a marathon on Pikes Peak.  I have read Matt Carpenter's website with course description and other tidbits that he posted there.  Since Matt owns the PPM's course record and is generally considered Mr. PPM, the advice he suggested are second to none, such as this one "Oxygen is overrated, keep running!".

Once I found out I was moving to Colorado Springs, PPM naturally was on my list.  The registration for the 2016 race is at noon on March 12th.  I had booked this date on multiple calendars.   A few days before the registration, I went to the race website and discovered the race cost $175!!!  Holy f--k!  Even Umstead 100 only cost $180 and they provide a 30 hours buffet of Golden Corral style food.  Screw that, I can run this race on my own term and not pay a penny.

So instead of sitting in front of my laptop sweating bullets at noon on March 12, I'll be somewhere on the Barr Trail sweating bullets doing my own PPM.

Weather forecast was good and bad.  Almost no wind on the summit, however there maybe a storm in the afternoon.  Now a storm on a 14er summit is no joke.  No one wants to experience it.  So this means an early start and get back down in the trees by noon or 1.

Before this I had gone up Barr Trail as far as 2.5 miles from the summit.  That was not a bad run, took a leisurely 6.5 hours to do.  I even ate lunch at 12,300 ft turn around enjoying the sun.  Today would be different.  I had gone up two other easy 14er's in the past two weekends so I was hoping I'm a bit more acclimatized.

5 AM and I hit the road from Memorial Park in Manitou Springs.  I could have parked at the Barr Trail's trail head but didn't for two reasons.  PPM actually starts at Memorial Park, and the trail head parking cost $10.  I'm a dirtbag.

1.3 miles and a couple hundred feet later, I hit Barr Trail.  I usually come here later in the morning when the trail is full of people who did the Incline and coming down on Barr Trail.  However at 5:20 AM, there wasn't a soul on the trail!!  Yeehaa!  The first 3 miles of the trail is one of the steepest sections, called the W since that's what it looks like on the map.  It has 13 switchbacks and gains 690 ft per mile for 3 miles which is 13% grade.  I remember I used to bitch about the 6% grade on Powerline hill in Umstead or the the 8% grade on Cemetery hill.  Knowing this is gonna be a long day, I take it easy here.  For the first time in Colorado I wore my heart rate monitor and it's a great tool to manage the effort.

First glow of sunrise

Glow over Colorado Springs

Alpine glow on the east face of Pikes Peak where I'll eventually be having fun


After the W's I see snow and ice on the trail so I put on the Microspikes.  These things are awesome for running in snow ice and slush.   Today the trail condition is mixed between mile 4 to 7 with alternating dry trails and snow.  Still it's a good tool.

I hit Barr Camp at mile 7.5 and 10,150 ft in 2:42, which is actually one of the faster efforts surprisingly.  Stopping is out of the question since once hot chocolate and coffee is served, I usually stay for an hour or more digging the caretaker Zach's brain.  Zach is twice the runner that I'm.  No he's not twice as big, but twice as fast.  He recently won CCC and TNF 50 championship.  I did fill my water bottle with some unfiltered stream water at Barr Camp.  Giardia takes 7 takes to show symptoms, won't affect today.  Barr Camp is considered the half way point to the summit both in elevation gained and time spent.

From Barr Camp, the trial became completely covered in snow.  Fortunately there has been enough traffic to create a hard packed snow trench that's between 8 to 12 inches wide.  However any steps off this hard packed stuff results in serious postholing, not fun and can easily pull the groin muscle.  It's not much of an issue going up due to my glacial ascending speed.  But running downhill with speed on this stuff, it is easy to go off and posthole.  It takes me 27 minutes to get to the next landmark called Bottomless Pit sign at 8.75 miles and 10,800 ft elevation.  The real Bottomless Pit is another couple miles to the right.  A day may come where I head right to the Pit, but not today.

15 more switchbacks in the snow led to the A-Frame at exactly 4 hours.  A-Frame is at 11,950 ft at just over 10 miles.  People actually shelter here.  It's right below the treeline.  This is fast!  Three weeks ago I got to A-Frame in 4:15.  Those two trips up 14ers must be helping.

From A-Frame I ascend above the trees and into the barren east face of Pikes Peak.


Trail here is mixed of dry trail and wind blown snow.  It hasn't snowed much in three weeks so what I saw here are mostly left over and deposited by wind.  After 35 minutes of zigzagging I come to the 2 miles to go sign on the right side of the east face.  From here the trail basically traverses all the way across the face to the left side.  Here I encounter something I never imagined.  The trail goes under a perfectly smooth about 25-30 degree sloped snowfield.  Obvious the work of wind.  Apparently no one else has crossed it so there were no tracks on the slope.  My Microspikes are great running on even snow, but this is more crampons/ice axe territory.  I imitate the mountaineers I see on TV by kicking the slope to make steps.  But after a few kicks the only thing I did was to make my toes hurt.  I guess you need big boots and crampons for that.  Then I did the next best thing, got down to my hands and crab walk across.  Yeah not pretty, and pretty scary too.  A slide means hmmm.....bad.  After I make across the snowfield, I find another one a few hundred feet later.  Crap...crab walk again.

After the excitement of the snowfields, the traverse was pretty uneventful except for my breathing which was somewhat out of control from the combination of exertion of the crab walk and fear of death.  I get to the next land mark the Cirque sign which is just before the 1 mile to go sign.  I didn't know what the Cirque sign meant "1500 ft deep".  The I walked to the edge of the trail and saw it.  Yes, it does look like a 1500 ft straight drop.  I guess is someone is really struggling during the race, they can end the suffering right here by going off the trail into the beyond.


Cirque
Grand Traverse



The trail next traverse back toward the right with some switchbacks that has deep snows on the trail but no snow at all off the trail.  Go figures.  Then comes most infamous sign of all, the 16 Golden Stairs.  This is suppose to be 16 pairs of switchbacks with huge boulder to climb over at each one of them.  I tried and lost count, since I spent most of the my time here hugging the boulders dizzying from lack of oxygen and trying not to tumble over the edge.
Final traverse toward the base of the 16 Golden Stairs

Summit of Pikes Peak was somewhat anticlimactic.  There was a cog train waiting to go down and a lot tourists walking around.  I didn't stop long just enough time to eat my nutella-jelly sandwhich (I ran out of peanut butter).

Going down, I was determined to avoid those damned snowfields.  On the grand left to right traverse, I picked a gentle looking spot and got off the trail.  I took a bearing toward a set of huge boulder formations at 12,500 ft and went straight for it with three big horn sheep watching me from not 50 yards away.  Unfortunately I should have scouted the route a bit more carefully.  I end up on more snowfields on this new route, not as steep or as exposed but just as tedious.  I remembered seeing people on other peaks doing this thing called glissade where they slide down snowfields with ease and descent with little effort and a lot of speed.  I decided to give it a try.

Turned out I don't know how to slow down.  I glissaded right out of the snowfield into a scree field. At least I missed the boulder field since that could have ruined the day. This is my first time ever experiencing scree.  They don't stay in one place, they actually move a lot, like an avalanche sort of way.  And they get inside of everything including shoes and pants.  Pulling scree out of my underwear is now my newest trail running trick.

Here is my route on the ascent and descent of the east face.


Rest of the run was uneventful.  I apparently can not navigate the trail around A-Frame.  For the second time in the row, I took a different way down past A-Frame.  I don't know how that happened.

Ascent took 6 hours and 6 minutes, descent took 3 hours and 22 minutes.  And I did stop at Barr Camp on the descent for a cup of hot chocolate.

Pretty views from the summit.




Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Annihilation

I originally planned to drive up to Morganton and camp at Mark's house Friday night, since Mark lived only 10 minutes from South Mountain State Park.  However Jade's last minute consignment shopping means I get to stay home with the babies on Friday night.  So I woke up at 2:30am on Saturday morning and left the house at 3:30 am for the three and half hour drive to the race.

Somewhere near Burlington, I realized I had left my wallet back at home.  My car was down to a quarter tank at this point.  I could turn around and go home but that means I would start late, way late, like and hour and half late.  I went to a gas station and started talking to the gas station manager about options.  I told him I knew my credit card number, but he was pretty iffy about that without any kind of photo ID.  Finally it dawned on me that I may have send a scanned photo of my driver's license to someone in the past so I started searching on my phone for past emails and hallelujah, a scan of my driver's license and my credit card!  He saw that scan and finally decided that I was likely not a credit card thief.

Pulling into South Mountain State Park at 7 am, I noticed all the towering ridges around me.  It seems like the road leading into the park followed the bottom of a steep valley.  The impression I got is every trail here goes UP.  As I collect my race packet and get my hydration pack ready, I looked around and realized everyone I see seemed really fit.  Seriously this is the fittest group of runners I have ever seen at started of a race.  Every one is lean, and every one is ripped.  It made me really question why I'm even here.  I don't belong to this group!  I'm a slow plodder, and everyone around me seemed capable of running in circles around me.

Race briefing
Bigfoot!  We tag his head to finish. 
We started with a bull horn blast and ran across the parking lot and I intentionally settled into the very back of the pack of 50 runners.  The trail immediately starts to climb and I settle with the back of the pack into a power hike.  The race is divided into five sections, Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta and Echo.  Alpha section is just under 6 miles, with the first 4 miles climbing on a rugged steep jeep road, then the course drops off the side of the mountain on a steep technical single tracks dotted with slippery steps.  Here I met Kathy from OBX, where the biggest hill is the Wrights Brother memorial mound, and she pulled away from me while bombing down the mountain.  How in the heck did she train for this?

Alpha section: 5.65 miles, 1,700' gain, 1,700' loss, 1 hour and 20 minutes.

At AS1, my legs were a bit wobbly from pounding down the mountain.  After refilling my pack, I took off down Bravo section with three other runners in a loose pack.  The first mile and half were fairly mild with only 300' of elevation gain and two cool creek crossings.  Then it turned upward in a mad 30% grade along an ridge line.  Here I manage to let everyone get ahead of me, since it was useless try to keep up.  Fortunately the madness was short, not even a quarter mile but climbed over 450'.  Then the course emerged onto a decent jeep road and gently climbed to 2'600 ft before a long quad pound descent back to the same aid station.  By now my legs were ready for a massage, with quads and IT bands screaming on the downhills and hips and calves screaming on the uphills.


First creek crossing

Still happy since I didn't know about the climbing ahead of me.
Rachel pulling ahead on the 30% grade single track trail around mile 7.5
The view on the top is gorgeous but we didn't get to see much of it
Another creek crossing on a log bridge
Creek crossing near end of Bravo section.  
 Bravo section: 8.52 miles, 3,000' gain, 3,000' loss.  2 hours and 15 minutes.

The friendly volunteer at AS2 promised less hill for Charlie section.  He was right, at least for the first 1/2 mile.  Then we hit the waterfall part, where a section of super steep stairs climbed to the top of the falls.  My strategy for the stairs was to do 10 steps, then rest, then repeat.

Trail just before the waterfall
Crossing the base of the fall
Dreaded stairs, which climbed straight up for 350 ft.
Charlie wasn't done after the waterfall yet.  I met a runner named Wayne from Georgia and we climbed more moderated grade jeep trails (like 15%) for awhile, then dropped off along a single track into a cool creek valley before climbing steeply away from the creek.  Wayne was bothered by leg cramps so he couldn't down hill much so eventually I left him.  I get passed by Jake who had gotten lost and ran extra 9 miles in Bravo section and still manage to pass me by mile 17.  After the long climb along the single track trail, I ran gingerly down a steep jeep trail for a mile to protect the quads from cramping and came across a beautiful creek with a beach along it so I took the opportunity to cool off and laid down in the creek and thoroughly chilled myself.  5 minutes later, I was overheating again because the damn trail decided to climb another 500 ft to the end of Charlie section.

Charlie section:  6.23 miles, 3,250' gain, 2,100' loss, 2 hours.

AS3 is located where the trail pops out onto a private road.  I met a couple in the aid station and they looked as fresh as at the start of the race, and the woman is wearing a pair of sandals!  I couldn't imagine how she could run these trails in them.  Delta section follows the road for about a mile with no shade and it's 1:30 or so in the afternoon, and temperature hovering around 90'.  I was more than happy to see the course re-enter the woods at end of the road and starts down the mountain along a gentle single track.  Normally this kind of trail and terrain would mean fast times, but with quads completely shredded, I could only manage to plod along at a snail pace with occasional walks to relieve the pain in my legs.  Finally the sections comes to an end with a godsend creek crossing to cool off and a short out and back section to AS4.

Delta section: 4.98 miles, 870' gain, 2,100' loss, 1 hours 8 minutes

The fine folks at AS4 promised me there are only two climbs left in Echo section but was vague on the details.  A thunderstorm approached as I took off down the short out and back spur and crossed the road to start the first climb.  Within minutes, the storm came down and the jeep trial became a creek.  On the other hand, I was no longer overheating.  I actually got a bit chilled from the driving wind and rain, and probably from the fear of getting hit by lighting.  Later on I would find out another runner actually saw a lighting splitting a tree no more than 50 yards from him.


20 minutes later, running scared, the storm finally settled into a nice rain.  The trail turns down the mountain along a slippery single track and I caught up to Rachel.  Rachel is also from OBX.  I honestly can't think of a good reason why someone from OBX would choose to run this race.  We stuck together for the next few miles as the trail once again turn skywards toward another long climb.  We marveled how it is possible to cram these many hills in a 50k.  Super relieved to hit the summit, we started slowly jogging down the hill, then the trail disappeared.  More accurately disappeared downward.  The steepest downhill in the entire race lay between us and the finish.  500 ft down, in about a third of a mile of slippery muddy trail at very end of the race caused us to mutter more than a few curses.

I was super relieved to discover the final half mile of the race is flat.  Flat!  Holy cow!  I rocketed toward the finish line moving at a lighting pace (hmmmm.....about 9 min pace...lol) and touched the Bigfoot's head at 8 hours and 45 minutes.

Echo section:  6.02 miles, 2,300' gain, 2100' loss, 1 hour 44 minutes.

It's gonna be a long drive home Sunday, especially after 5 beers, 3 sangria's and staying up until 2am on Saturday night.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Annihilator 50k preview

There isn't really much to say about this race, except that with 5 hour cutoffs at end of Bravo section (4700ft up/4700ft down), 8 hours cutoff at end of Charlie section (6700ft up/6700ft down), my chance of DNF this weekend is excellent.  Maybe I should bring more beer instead of running hydration since beer will more likely to be consumed after an early missed cutoff.


Thursday, April 18, 2013

SCAR Flyover.

       
    

Monday, January 21, 2013

Weymouth Suprise

I can come up with a training plan for any situations, including some rather hopeless ones.

Following my shoulder surgery in middle of  October last year, I took about 5 weeks off from running.  To keep me from going insane with boredom, I joined a gym and started walking on the treadmill.  So this formed the basis of my new training plan.

Training plan 1: resume running in middle of November for one and half weeks with intense focus, then attempt a half marathon PR on Thanksgiving Day.  Reasons why this plan should succeed: my legs ought be fresh, probability of overtraining is zero, and walking on the mill is the same as running (!!!)  Reasons why this plan should NOT succeed: too many to list.  Result: held PR pace for 2 miles then crashed and burned spectacularly.

This is what I looked like at finishing line, with my nephew Vincent pacing me the last 1/4 mile.  He raced the 6K earlier and waited an hour near the finish to run me in.

Those final agonizing steps in the finishing chute
Immediately following the failure of training plan #1 is the end of semester stretch at pharmacy school so I was side tracked from creating training plan #2 and also got side tracked from doing much running.  After the last final exam, training plan #2 got kicked into action on December 15th.  Weymouth Woods is 5 weeks away and winter break is 3 weeks long.  So it's natural to train super hard for 3 weeks during the break without interference from school, then taper for 2 weeks for the race.  Plan called for 3 x 60.  At least it's not the shortest training plan ever.  Plan #1 (see above) claimed that title.

Week 1: 57 miles in 5 days.  A bit short of goal but with two weeks remaining there should be plenty time to bring the average back up to 60.  Week 1 started with a 25 miler tripping on LSD and ended with a 10 miler on speed.

Week 2: 62 miles in 6 days, including 29.5 miles at Boxing Day Are You Kidding Me FA event where I decided to start super slow and race a 10k at end.  It was painful.  This week is also special that I spent a total of 8 hours running in cold cold rain.

Week 3: 47 miles in 5 days.  The inevitable blow up for attempting such an ambitious running schedule.  I did two 11 milers on Falls Lake trail to prepare my feet and ankle for the famous Weymouth roots.  By the middle of week 3, both calves feel like they're about to seek new owners.  I had no choice but to convert a planned 25 miler to 10 to avoid jumping over the cliff.

So I didn't necessarily complete the ambitious training plan but came close with 166 miles over three weeks for an average of 55/week.  This is about 98% higher than my average training week.  Didn't someone famous said something about the 10% rule?  Well, I can't find that link anymore.

I also promised my physical therapist that I will only run during the daylight and walk once it gets dark to avoid potentially injury my right shoulder again.  She's not particularly happy about me running this race at all and really didn't like how long this race is.  She wants to know why I didn't pick a 5k.

On race day, Kristen and I stopped by Waffle House to lubricate our GI's for the big day.  This is Kristen's first ultra and she's super pumped.

Lap one had me plodding along and finishing in 55 minutes.  I was fairly happy, it was about 2 minutes faster than 2011, and my heart rate is nice and low.  It was warming up rather quickly so I shed my fleece vest.  Lap 2 and 3 were done both in 53 minutes and I got really excited since I'm now over 15 minutes ahead of 2011.  Hmm....could a PR be possible, even with walking at night?  But toward end of lap 3 I noticed my heart rate creeping up.  Even slowing down does not seem to help.  It took me the entire lap 4 to figure out the cause of the cardiac drift.  I drank only 22oz of fluid (one full bottle), in 18 miles.  Hmm...holy crap, I somehow got myself dehydrated even though I don't feel that way.  Quick solution is needed, so I consumed two bottles of fluid on the next lap, and then noticed my fingers are tingly and a bit swollen.  Holy crap, now I'm hyponatremic.

I continued to consume my Perpeteum mix at rate of 1.5 bottle per lap but now added a Saltstick capsule each lap.  The disadvantage of doing this quick hydration is I had to hydrate trees often, twice per lap for the next three laps.  By lap 7, most of the symptoms had disappeared, I felt somewhat better, and heart rate settled back down.

At end of lap 6, I grabbed a burger from the main aid station.  I did not realize it was a veggie burger until I bit into it on the trail.  Oh well it couldn't hurt so I ate it, and within 5 minutes my stomach turned into a steel knot.  Ouch ouch ouch.  I begged for some hot liquid at the far end aid station and got some ramen noddle soup.  It wasn't bad but I couldn't stomach the noddles so I just sipped the hot liquid along the trail.  It took two more cups of soup to eventually made the steel knot in the stomach to feel tolerable.  What heck is in a veggie burger?  My GI can't tolerate fake proteins!!!  No more solid food for rest of the race.

By lap 8, I was getting pretty tired, and my hips and legs are achy, stomach is ok but not great, and even though my heart rate stayed even, my entire body just feel like a big turd of dull pain.  Though I pre-taped my feet this time, I started  to feel there maybe issues developing down there that I rather not deal with since I couldn't bend over enough to touch my feet at this point.  Somewhere along lap 8 I decided I need an appointment with a psychiatrist to figure out why I choose to abuse myself this way.  Seriously thought about sitting down and called it a day at end of the lap.

At started of lap 9, the psychiatrist showed up in the form of Tait, a fellow runner.  We had ran together for a lap earlier in the race and it was good to run with a familiar face again.  The doctor's solution to my problem is to discuss his plans and his upcoming 100 miler attempt at Graveyard 100.  We swapped stories and I shared my lone attempt at 100 at Umstead in 2011.  By end of lap 9, he had came up with a mental plan for me to deal with the remaining laps.  Do one lap in the light, and then only 4 laps in the dark to the finish.  Any morons can do 4 laps in the dark, so it ought to be easy.

The doctor's wife showed up at end of lap 9 to pace him for a lap, so I bid him farewell.  It turned out his idea of pacing is a bit more involved.

Tait's wife "pacing" him on lap 10
Lap 10 ended at 9:40 on the race clock and all the sudden I wondered if 14 hours would be possible.  It'll take 1:05 average lap time over the the 4 night laps would get me to 14 hours.  Two years ago I averaged 1:17 at night, and even on the final lap when I went for the kamikaze lap, I still only managed 1:08.  So four laps of 1:05 at night is out of the question.  I relaxed knowing I most likely will still break my previous PR of 15:20 without trying too hard at this point, and grabbed my ginormous Fenix HP11 headlamp and took off on lap 11, the first full lap in the dark.

What a difference the Fenix lights combination makes in night running!!!  Previously I ran with Black Diamond Storm headlamp which is a really nice headlamp but seeing roots and rocks at night sure is difficult.  Since everyone else ran with similar or even dimmer headlamps, I always assumed night trail running is about guessing where the roots are rather than seeing where the roots are.  Last year at Weymouth, I watched Gene storming the course at night with his Fenix HP11 like it's daylight and end up buying the light after the race to try it.  Somehow Fenix mis-threaded one of the straps on my HP11, and for the next 10 months I couldn't figure out how to comfortably wear the super heavy battery pack on the back of my head.  I just assumed Gene's head/neck is just that much tougher than mine.  Yes I'm not that bright.  I finally figured out that the strap was not threaded correctly two months ago.  The second element of this combination is the handheld.  Over the years I have heard multiple people say having a handheld light at night helps with roots but I didn't want another thing in my hand so I ignored them.  James Plant had tremendous success last year at Weymouth with his Fenix E21 handheld light, so I finally decided to give it a try and bought it, and promptly tossed it in the drawer for a whole year.  So the combination of HP11 and E21 debuted at Weymouth this year, and it turned night to day.  The HP11 has an optional diffuser and I played with different combinations on lap 11 and found that I liked it best to have the HP11 with the diffuser pointed a bit out in the front to give me a good idea of what's coming up, and the E21 in my right hand pointed just in front of my feet to give three dimensional view of roots that I'm immediately about to step over, which leaves my left hand free to perform rocket blows and other bodily functions.

I did not bother to check time during the laps the entire race.  So I had no idea what lap 11 time was going to be.  When I came into the finishing area and saw the race clock at 10:45, I did a double take and had to do the math twice in my head to make sure I didn't screw it up.  1:05 night lap?  Is that possible?  Because I did not push on that lap whatsoever.  That lap was spent on working out the best way to use the two lights, and I also ate a bowl of hot grits again at Doug and Jimmy's 3 Minutes Hostel.  I noticed another curiosity that first surfaced at Mountain Masochist back in 2011 and again at Hinson in 2012, where once I get past 10 to 11 hours of running, it became harder and harder to get the heart rate up.  Lap 11 was only about 30 seconds slower than lap 10, but my lap average heart rate dropped from 137 to 135.  I still can't explain this.  Regardless, a 1:05 night lap without killing myself was a complete surprise.  The lighting solution I had must have made a far bigger difference than I thought possible.  All the sudden 14 hours is not only possible, but very doable at this rate.  Like throwing a switch, my body and mind changed mode immediately, and instead getting a cup of chicken noodle soup like I had been doing since lap 6, I grabbed a small piece of pumpkin bread and rushed to my gear and chugged a bottle of Starbucks Frappuccino and hurried out of the aid station.  Frappuccino was a big gamble consider the stomach trouble I had earlier, but with 14 hours all the sudden on the table, I had to risk it.

Running through scenarios for the last 3 laps in my head as I pick my way through the rooty section in the first quarter mile, I figured if I could do 1:05 on lap 12, then a slight speed up on lap 13 before going for it on lap 14, I should have 14 hours with a few minutes to spare.  All along lap 12, I keep reminding myself do not speed up, do not speed up, do not speed up.......be patient and wait for the next lap.  A sub 14 is big enough goal, don't get greedy and go for more and crash.  However I did not stop with Doug and Jimmy's for grits this time but ran through their aid station for the first time during the race to save time.

About 1/4 mile past Doug and Jimmy's, the Fenix E21 in my hand dimmed.  Oh crap!  I have a set of Sanyo Eneloop 1900 mAh rechargeable AA batteries in the E21, and a set of 3100 mAh Energizer Ultimate Lithium in the HP11 headlamp.  I figured the E21 is rated at almost half the lumen as the HP11 so the smaller capacity battery should be ok.  But I did not consider the effect of the cold temperature on batteries.  The Ultimate Lithium's claim to fame is cold temperature high drain application.  I immediately noticed how much harder it was to see roots.  After a few hundred yards of this, I yanked the HP11 off my head and used it as a giant handheld and was immediately rewarded with good depth perception again.  Running through the timing once again in my head, I decided I need to be super efficient at Aid Station to not blow the 14 hour goal.  Even though the to do list is fairly short, I did not want to screw it up.  I need a crew for the first time in the race.

Crossing the timing mat once more at end of lap 12, the clock showed 11:50.  Perfect, another 1:05 lap.  I saw Linda at the aid station wrapped in blanket cheering me on, and I yelled (sorry Linda) at her to grab a piece of pumpkin bread and meet me at my table.  I frantically changed the batteries in the E21 as Linda came over and I told her to fish a bottle of Frappuccino out of my gear bucket and open the lid for me.  I wasn't gonna risk another set of the Eneloop batteries again, so I popped in my remaining Ultimate Lithium batteries in the E21 and chugged the Frappuccino from Linda like a freshman chugging his first beer on spring break then bolted for the trailhead.  I had stopped drinking from my waist belt water bottle two laps ago and forgotten to ditch it each time, and it was bothering my already troubled stomach and sure enough I forgot to ditch it again.  Without no time waste, I tied the belt to the post guarding the trail head and ran into the woods on lap 13, with a piece of pumpkin bread dangling from my mouth.

My promise to my PT to not run in the dark had now morphed into not running in the dark in the rooty sections.  Once I got through the first mile and half, I hit the first smooth trail and decided to do a bit of fartlek to get my body warmed up for the the final lap.  Here and there I picked smooth trails and hills to pick up pace and still cautiously went through rooty sections and downhills.  Near the start of lap 13 I felt something pop under the left foot's tape and I really did not want to have another blister ruin my race again so running hard downhill was out of question since that just aggravated whatever is going on under the left foot.  Without stopping at Doug and Jimmy's once again, I finished lap 13 at 12:53 on the clock.  Lap time is 1:02.

I seriously considered not stopping at the aid station, but realizing there is a good chance of bonking without additional calories.  The fastest source of calories is once again Frappuccino, all 180 kcal of it.  Taking off on lap 14 burping Starbucks, I was filled with adrenaline knowing this lap is going to be exciting, and is also going to be painful.

Shortly into the final lap, I passed Kristen and Darryl.  Darryl had paced Kristen for the past 6 laps after volunteering at the main aid station all morning.  I told Kristen she looked awesome and thanked Darryl for taking care of my friend.  At Doug and Jimmy's, I stopped to thank them for taking care me the entire day.  They are simply amazing, manning that remote station all by themselves for the entire 20 hours, and smiled and helped every one of us all through out the day and the night and provided amazing drinks and food. At the second to the last hill, I power walked past another runner and we briefly exchanged cheerful notes and found out we were both on the final lap.  Half way up the hill, I started hearing his footsteps behind me catching up.  I have no idea who he is, however I sure don't want to be passed by him at this point, so I took off running up this hill for the first time in the race.  I felt bad doing so but also really really wanted to finish ahead of him for some reason.  This means I had to run up the last hill, the worst freaking hill on the course.  Running up that hill on a good day is not fun.  Running up it at end of a 100k is just a cruel joke.  It's payback time.  Last year I somehow convinced Gene and Lauren sprint up that hill on their final lap.  Should have known back then it was bad karma.

Crossing the finishing line in 13:48 is just unreal.  Coming into the race without much of a goal except to finish and not hurt myself, then shaving 92 minutes off my PR.  I have no clue how it happened.

Happy to be done!
The best news of the day: not a single text from Jade.  I had made plan with her that if she's not feeling well and potentially go into labor, text me and the worst case it'll take me about 2.5 hours to get to Rex Hospital (1 hour to finish the lap to check the phone, then 1.5 hours to drive). There is no reason so suspect she may go into labor early and our OB said she's looking great the previous week.  But with twins at 31 weeks, anything is possible.   I had made arrangement to have a friend drive her in if anything happens.  Each lap when I checked my phone and do not see a text, I breathed a sigh of relief.

I hang out between the aid station and the lodge waiting for Kristen to finish.  She's just amazing.  Her first marathon was only 10 months ago at Umstead, and here she is finishing her first 100k!  Kudos to all the people that took her under their wings during the race: Linda, Darryl, Tom, and Ray!

Kristen smiling with her finisher's award after over 18 hours of running!
Race numbers:

Time Distance Lap time Lap distance Lap pace Avg HR Max HR
0:54:42 4.59 0:54:42 4.59 11:55 135 152
1:47:44 9.06 0:53:02 4.47 11:52 137 146
2:40:51 13.53 0:53:07 4.47 11:53 139 152
3:35:58 18 0:55:07 4.47 12:20 142 151
4:32:12 22.47 0:56:14 4.47 12:35 144 155
5:31:35 26.94 0:59:23 4.47 13:17 141 151
6:32:06 31.41 1:00:31 4.47 13:32 140 154
7:31:24 35.88 0:59:18 4.47 13:16 141 152
8:35:16 40.35 1:03:52 4.47 14:17 138 150
9:40:14 44.82 1:04:58 4.47 14:32 137 168
10:45:53 49.29 1:05:39 4.47 14:41 135 146
11:50:40 53.76 1:04:47 4.47 14:30 136 146
12:53:08 58.23 1:02:29 4.47 13:59 138 147
13:48:40 62.7 0:55:32 4.47 12:25 144 167

Monday, October 1, 2012

Hinson Lake

I did not achieve my main goal at Hinson Lake, which is to run/walk/crawl for 24 hours.  I quit just shy of 21 hours.  My pain tolerance is apparently lower than most people out there who persisted to the very end.

However, there are quit a few things that went well, very well at Hinson for me.

I've half heartly followed the low heart rate training since 2010, but started really stick to it after the half marathon in Jacksonville in December of 2011.  According to SportTracks, the average heart rate of all of my runs was 145 for 2010, 139 for 2011, and 132 for 2012.  The benefit of this training did not show up at The Scream in July, but really shined at Hinson.  I run most of the first 65 miles/16 hours, and while running, the heart rate stayed in the 130 to 135 range.  As the distance piled up and the running slowed down, so did the heart rate.  Eventually it was rare to get above 130. This was HUGE.  In the past, my heart rate would spike at any thing past 20 miles.  I remember back at Umstead 100 in 2011, after 40 miles, even the smallest imperceivable hills caused me to walk slowly.  At Hinson this weekend, I was still happily running up (some called it shuffling, others called it not running) the small hills at mile 60.  So the Maffetone training has definitely paid off.

I have been playing with Hammer Perpetuem since March of this year.  It worked very well at Chattooga 50K for me.  At Hinson, Jade mixed 1.5 scoops in each 1L nalgene bottle, and I drank from it at end of each 1.52 mile lap and never carried anything during the lap.  I did not take any salt tablets or eat salt, except for whatever salt that was in the three slices of pizza that I consumed.  I was urinating every 1.5 hours to 2 hours, and did not see any signs of swollen fingers or feet.  Came home on Sunday and discovered I was at the same weight as pre-race.  So for running at this effort level, Perpetuem is a tremendous success.

Brian posted this quote on the Hinson group page last week, and I was repeating it to myself during the night when I was doing most of the laps on my own, occasionally passing or getting passed.  It kept me going for a long time.

"Beyond the very extreme of fatigue and distress, we may find amounts of ease and power we never dreamed ourselves to own; sources of strength never taxed at all because we never push through the obstruction", by William James.

Other things did not go well.

Blisters........blisters suck, need to learn to tape.

Chaffing.......need better lubs.

Motivation......I lost mine when I realized I couldn't hit 90 miles with about 2.5 hours to go.  Well, I could get 85, maybe 87 miles, but the drive simply disappeared.  I guess I was so super fixated at hitting 90 for the last 6 or 7 hours, that once it became impossible, I didn't have a second goal to help motivate me.  Sort forgot my main goal for the event.  Maybe I should write it down on my shoes so every time I look down it'll remind me.