Sep 15, 2011

Heading Off Road - Naperville Trails Half Marathon

Ran a nice little half marathon in Wheaton, IL yesterday(09/11). Location: Danada County Forest Preserve Course: Crushed limestone surface with a small section of grassy horsetrack to start/finish on. Some short hills. I had run on this surface previously, but it definitely isn't the typical road/blacktop surface that most half marathons that I've run on. Weather: Cool at the start, but sunny with shaded sections and full sun along the course. Seemed warmer out. Shoes: Saucony Kinvara - Wrong choice of shoe on this type of surface as it didn't provide much traction or supprt Goal: Start off running with the 1:35/pace group or 7:15/mile avg to see how long I could hang or my knee would let me hang on. Pam and I arrived in Naperville, IL the day prior to enjoy ourselves a little shopping around, etc. We ate at a couple restaurants that we don't get to often; the Spicy Pickle and California Pizza Kitchen(probably our favorite). We picked up my race packet at RoadRunner Sports upon arrival and checked into the hotel. I felt pretty relaxed the day prior to the race. Race morning came and we woke up early even though the event was only 2 miles from our hotel. I wanted to arrive somewhat early because parking was at a premium in the park with 750+ entrants and I didn't want Pam to have to haul back/forth very far. Nice Legs! Pam and I prerace! Patiently waiting for the start! We picked up my chip prerace and spotted the 1:35/pacer. Before long after snapping some pics, we were off. I was pretty much right off the front with about 10-20 other runners including the 1:30/pacer who had no one with him, but maybe one guy. I ran right near the 1:35/pacer as we made our way our this somewhat grassy horsetrack. I knew right away because of the footing the pace was going to be a bit slow for the first mile. And it was at that. Not long after we hit the crushed limestone trail, the 1st mile came in at 8:03. No worry! Good to start off a little slower and then pick it up from there. However, as we hit some flatter, downhill sections of the course, the 2nd mile came in at 6:47. I expected that as I trailed the pacer a few strides making our way to the turnaround right past the 2nd mile. And that turnaround on a narrow limestone trails wasn't easy. And the orange cone couldn't have been any bigger :). Almost to a near stop, turn and go back the same direction as we came from. We hit the first real hill of the morning heading back and made our way toward mile 3 where we were greeted by a huge crowd of spectators including my wife, Pam. I picked her out right away as I ran stride for stride with the 1:35/pacer and gave her a thumbs up. And came through the 3rd mile in 7:09. About this time I think I felt the first real fatigue with my knee and we were only 3 miles into a 13.1 mile race. It was more of an achey pain then a pain where I thought I better stop right now. And pushed on toward the next mile on flatter section of the course, going through the 4th mile in 7:13. And I'm still with the pacer as we made our 1st pass around a looped section of the course toward the next mile marker. We came through the 5th mile in 7:19. About this time I decided to back off the pace and run my own race. My knee kept giving me fits and I felt if I backed off the pace a little it might gradually calm down. I still had the pacer in sight about 20-25 yds ahead pretty much the next couple of miles. We headed toward the 6th mile on a gradual climb up the trail and I came through in 7:20 and the 7th mile in 7:36, starting to fall off again a bit. So, I pushed on with what seemed at this point where the 17 miles I ran on Thursday were starting to catch up with me a bit. The fatigue in my legs was evident to an extent. No excuse as I found a new burst of energy and came through the 8th mile in 7:19, making my way toward the 2nd pass of the loop. About this time I'm starting to burst pass slower runners and on their first pass of the loop as I'm changing places with 2 other runners. Which I had been for the majority of the last 2-3 miles. It really started to give me some energy back as I went through the 9th mile in 7:20. About this time I noticed that my knee wasn't bothering me any longer. I felt like I had some new found strength running in the open sun in kind of in no mans land with no one around me for a stretch, and headed up a small incline passing through the 10th mile in 7:45. What the heck, I thought I had sped up. Guess not! But I did finally crack the 2 guys I was trading places with as we passed through a water stop and I pushed on toward the next mile knowing the finish was only 5k off. And came through the 11th mile in 7:26, passing walkers & slower runners encouraging them onward. 2ish miles to go. I made my way toward the 12th mile, picking it up a hair in 7:24, not looking back as I was beginning to pick off a few runners who might have gone out a bit to fast. On the other hand, I encouraged everyone on as I passed them. Off in the distance I could hear the cheering as I made my way back toward the grassy horsetrack. I entered the flat section of grass and clicked my watch at the 13th mile in 7:32, made the left turn around the track toward the finish. Finish Time - 1:36:57 Place - 27th out of 653 finishers Overall, despite my knee issue I'd definitely run this race again. This type of surface is always challenging, but that is why we race to see what we have on that day. After arriving home, we ate a quick dinner and I headed back out to the trails for an additional 7 miles. Surprisingly, I felt really strong energywise on this 2nd run of the day. And finished up with a little over 20 Miles right before dark.

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05/17/08 - Berryman Trail 50 Mile (Race Report)

My training partner Brett and I signed up for the Berryman Trail races back in late March. I would be running the 50M event while Brett would be running the marathon (his first trail race) or the "fun run" as the website stipulates. I was excited for him and excited for as well as I hadn't run a race since Louisville's Lovin the Hills 50K back in February. I was way under trained for that event, but finished and knew I had alot of work to do come May 17th. Sure, training can be fun, but there comes a point in time when you really need to get back in the game, back where I feel most comfortable and that is racing.

My biggest issue coming into this race was a bout with ITBand irritation in my left leg. It would come and go, but at times it was excruciating following some runs. Come late April I even emailed the RD to ask if it was possible to move down to the marathon distance as I wasn't entirely sure I would be adequately trained come race day. She said that I could once the race starts, but wouldn't be eligible for any awards. So, I completely pulled myself off the road and concentrated solely on training on the trails. In the past when training for ultras I would use a combination of road marathons/trail running. Leaving the pavement behind helped. Even during trail tempos I experienced no problems the following day and was able to bounce back. I was ready for the challenge. From this point on I wouldn't second guess my decision to stay in the 50M race.

Brett and I set off for our destination, Potosi, MO. A small town about 74 miles southwest of St. Louis. Not far from where we'd be racing at the Berryman Campground inside Mark Twain National Forest. This area of the country is quite beautiful and hilly. I did a little research on the course, but one never knows until they actually get out there as to what it’s like. Sometimes it is best not knowing what you are getting yourself into.

Course: Two loops (24.8M per loop) for the 50 mile, 1 for the Marathon, plus a short out and back for each event on a gravel road. There is one crossing of Brazil Creek per loop. The course crosses many other stream beds that may or may not have water in them depending on recent rainfall. Aid Stations will be approximately every 4 to 5 miles apart.

After arriving in Potosi we dropped our stuff off at the local Super 8. A great place to stay for the race and cheap$$. Plus, they had a great breakfast buffet. And the fact that it is located only 15-20 minutes from Berryman Campground. So, we headed out to the campground to pick up our race packets and found they were just getting things set up. It was pretty low key, so we gathered our packets and headed back into Potosi for a bite to eat and some rest as the race would be starting at 6:30AM. We did notice however that the temperature was a bit warmer than northern Indiana and they were predicting start temps in the 50s with a high in the lower 80s. That concerned me a little, but what could we do. At least we'd be running under the canopy.

Going in I really had no expectations as far as finishing time for this ultra. Brett said he'd like to run right around 5hrs. Not knowing what the course was like I through a time out there late on Friday evening prior to the race of 9hrs, but "finishing" was what I was really after.

We turned in somewhat early for a 4:00AM wakeup. I slept about as well before a race as I probably ever had. Everything was ready and we headed toward the campground. The day finally arrived. It was a cool morning, but the sun was slowly rising over a ridge. There wouldn't be a cloud in the sky on this day. We arrived at the campground as others were pulling in. Each of us put a drop bag down for the 16 mile mark after crossing Brazil Creek.

After a few late instructions from the RD, Brett and I wished each other luck and we were off on the short out-n-back section on the gravel road. The 50 Milers would cover .4 miles on the road and the marathoners 1.4 miles before heading back into the woods to start the loop. I started right off the front as did two other 50M runners and a few marathoners. I didn't know these two runners, but by the looks of it they were seasoned trail runners. I stayed close behind them from the start as we entered the trail and was right on their heels. The beginning of the trail is made up of rocky/root covered sections. There were a few dry creek beds, but most had water running through them. The cold water felt pretty good, but my goal was to stay as dry as possible. I stayed with the lead runners just before the first aid station at 4.45 miles. They were going a bit faster than I wanted to go this early and my heart rate was telling me to back off. About that time, just before AS#1, another 50M runner came up behind me and passed. I stayed with him as we headed into AS#1. We left as soon as we came in not wasting any time. I was close behind him. Not far from AS#1 he caught his foot on a rock and rolled it pretty good. I asked him if he was alright and told him to walk it off. Don't run on it immediately. This would plague him all day. Most if not all of this section was very runnable aside from navigating the rockier creek areas.

In 3rd place again, a few of the lead marathoners were making their way along the course. I graciously ran to the right side of the single track letting them pass as their day would end way before mine would. Staying with them would be a huge mistake. I would have no part of that. Over this time as I headed into AS#2 and AS#3, I made sure to power walk nearly every hill. I ran some of them, but it made no sense to waste quad strength that I would need late in the race. By this time the 50M runner who had rolled his ankle was behind me once again and I let him pass. He was running all the hills, but was having a heck of time on the downhill portions where I would trade places with him again and again. I was feeling really good. As we headed into AS#3, another marathoner came in as I was leaving. He caught me going out and we ran together, chatting it up. This section to AS#4 at Brazil Creek ended up being more horse trail then single track. Quite muddy at times, but nothing that stopped me from running through and around it. We headed down the rocky section to Brazel Creek at mile 16 on the course. You had no choice but to jump into the cool water and across. I actually didn't mind it. As soon as you get across and run through a bit of sand, the course veers to the right to the aid station at the campground. I grabbed a glass of coke and filled my hand held with half gator”barf”/half water and grabbed a handful of gummy bears. To this point I was eating Sharkey's and Energy Beans from my belt and the occasional GU.

We left AS#4 through a small clearing and out onto the only paved road section on the course. I decided to walk half of it before heading back onto the trail into the woods. Soon after I would catch the marathoner I had run with prior and we chatted awhile. The pace felt comfortable so I went with it. He told me there are days when he'll mountain bike this course and then run it. I could probably do it but when it comes to biking I'm a green horn and would probably hurt myself on this course. From this point on we would run together until he finished. Most of the bigger (long) hills were from 16 miles on until the completion of the first loop. I would continue to power walk the hills as fast as I could while the two runners I was with would run them. Again, after the hill I would catch them shortly after.

We made it into AS#5 (19.5M) and filled up. I chose to stay away from any solid foods. Nothing looked good to me at the time. I was drinking well and popping an S-cap nearly every 1hr-1.5hrs. One of the volunteers told me he'd have ice and popsicles for the 2nd loop. I told him I'd hold him to it and laughed as we headed out toward AS#6. More climbing ensued, but alot of this section was easy running.

We headed into AS#6 greeted by two lovely ladies, filled up quickly and were gone. One more longggg climb remained and then some rollers back to Berryman Campground to end the first loop. I was feeling good as I came through the start/finish area in 3:49. Maybe a little to good as the temperature was rising. Here you had the option of dropping to the marathon distance by running an additional out-n-back if things weren’t going as planned. I filled up quickly and was out of there. Now I was thinking that maybe I had a shot at setting a new PR. Two other runners came in behind me at the end of the loop and quickly caught me. The guy who rolled his ankle early on and another runner I had not seen to this point in the race. I let them both by and stayed close behind the runner hobbling on his ankle. He quickly pulled off to the side as we headed into AS#1 and I wouldn't seem him again until the race was over. The other guy took off down the trail.

From this point on I would run solo the remainder of the race aside from coming up behind a few late marathon runners. I think at the time I was in 4th place. It was getting hotter. Each time I stepped out of the shade on the trail into the sunlight the sun seemed that much warmer. I kept moving forward. Just before Brazil Creek I came upon 5 horses and their riders on the muddier section of the trail. I quickly moved off to the side not wanting to spook them as they went by. I crossed the creek into the Brazil Creek AS and joked with the two girls volunteering, asking them if this was a school project or were they just giving up their Saturday for us. I thanked them and quickly left. Things were still going well. As I excited Brazil Creek and out on to the small road section I chose to walk the entire length of it until reaching the woods and took off once again. More climbing would ensue. To this point I still had my legs and had no problems running without having to grimace in pain because my quads hurt like in past races.

For some reason with like 5-6 miles to go I kept thinking about the lead female catching me. Why? I don’t know. Maybe it is my competitive nature or something. The funny thing is that I didn’t know who it was and didn’t see her all day. I suppose this motivated me a bit to push on harder. I had two more aid stations to go to the finish. With 6:35 on my watch I headed into the 2nd to last AS. Low and behold they had ice and a lime freeze pop. Just like the guy said that he would. I filled up my bottle and walked out of the AS. Man did that freeze pop hit the spot.

Within a quarter of a mile leading into the last aid station I noticed the runner who passed me at the beginning of the 2nd loop was limping. I asked him if he was ok as I went by and told him to walk it off to the next AS. Now I was in position to take 3rd overall and a new PR was within reach. I entered the last AS and quickly exited after a fill up. I knew there was one long climb to go. I knew I would really have to push myself at this point. I wasn’t struggling, but at this point in the race with it being over 80F, I felt depleted. I could feel the salt hanging on my face and arms. I knew the finish was near. After power walking the last climb, I took off only seeing a few late marathon runners ahead on the trail. I exited the woods and across the gravel road and could nearly see the finish area. I picked it up a bit as they rang the cowbells with people cheering me on. It felt good to be done although I would have pushed on had the race been longer. I met Brett at the finish. He had finished his first trail marathon in 5:17. I was happy for him.

Finish: 3rd Overall (8:30:09PR) - (Old 2006 PR: 8:43:55)
1st Place – 7:37
2nd Place – 7:54