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!