Oct 31, 2011

Chicago Lakefront 50 Mile - DNF @ 37.50 Miles

Wow! What a morning. Never really expected to DNF this race. However, going in I had it in the back of my mind that this would no doubt be one of the hardest races to this point in my short life. All "paved" for 50 Miles (4 x 12.5 Mile out/back). I mean, I've run 50 Miles before (White River, Glacial Trail, Berryman Trail, Bull Run Run) and have even run longer (Laurel Highlands Trail 70.5 Mile), but all were on for the most part soft trails. And I've run more marathons on the pavement then I'd like to count right now. The last time I ran a race on pavement was a 3:27 @ Carmel Marathon in June. After that I ran a few short road runs, but mainly concentrated on hitting the trails fairly hard for the tough course at Glacial Trail 50K, three weeks out from the Chicago race. Well, in between Glacial and Chicago, I got sick. And a mighty chest cold came on. No excuses. I'm running regardless. And race morning came and we are off. I started off the front running beside Chuck Schultz, who by the way recently finished a Triple Ironman! The guy is a beast. The morning was crisp in the upper 30s. Right from the get go, you can usually tell who is going to fly off the front. And one guy certainly did and never looked back finishing in 5:32 (remember this time) in what I think is the 2nd or 3rd fastest 50M of the year. All within weeks of one another. Another guy who shot off was Inov-8 Team Manager, Mark Lundblad. A heck of runner in his own right. We started in the dark, but with so many city lights and a glare off Lake Michigan, a headlamp wasn't needed. Chuck and I would run about 2-2.5 miles together and then we got separated. From this point on I would run solo even though I'd see countless runners and bikers throughout the morning. Running solo can be hard, but I've never thought of it that way. Things were going smooth. I decided to go with a waist pack and a 10oz bottle with a couple extra pouches attached to the front. The plan was to take at least 3 gels a loop. I look ahead and a volunteer biker is stopped ahead of me. It is the 5k mark and I come through at 23:ish on my watch. I'm not breathing hard, not pushing. I head toward the New Leaf Ultra Runners / CHUGS aidstation and Brian Gaines is there to high five me as I run by. I hit the turnaround near McCormick place or roughly 6.25 miles in 42:ish on the watch and head back to the start. As I'm running back I greet other runners making the same trek. I hit the aidstation and Brian Gaines encourages me on telling me I am looking strong. And I was feeling just that way. On the way back to the start, I notice that I am in 4th or 5th spot and come through 12.5 Miles in 1:34ish on the clock. And just like that after a fill up of the bottle I am gone. Feeling really strong. The next 12.5 Miles out/back would feel nearly the same. I hit the turnaround at McCormick and not long after that a runner passes me. No big deal. Just prior to arriving back at the start, another runner yells out to me that you are in 4th place. That really was the farthest thing from my mind. I had a long way to go. I get back to the start in 3:09. Pretty consistent loop in 1:34ish. And after asking the volunteer to fill my bottle with half Coke/half water I am off. About the 3-4 miles later, my day would start to unfold. I get past the aidstation where Brian Gaines was manning with a number of other volunteers (thank you by the way) and my upper back starts to tighten up. Like my arms seemed to start freezing up a little. Weird feeling really. Then all of a sudden my right arm becomes limp/numb. I'm still running as I head toward the turnaround and greet Geoff and Paige Dunmore out for a casual run. They encourage me on. Now I feel I'm in a little trouble. My right hand turns cold. I'm thinking maybe it is a salt issue. So, I pop 2 E-caps and walk a little. I'm just past 31 miles or 4:09 in the race. I run some, walk some. My back isn't loosening up. I get to Brian's aidstation and tell him that my right arm went numb and I can't move it. However, I head out of the aidstation and run on. Before long I am walking, running, walking. I assess my issues as I'm plodding on and my back isn't giving me an inch. My arm is about the same. I hit the start area or 37.5 Miles in 5:32. Well, the winner of the race arrives right behind me. I stand there for a few minutes and realize the fun of day was gone inside me. And realized that if that is gone. I am done. I pull out of the race. I felt I ran fairly strong for 31 Miles. Today just wasn't my day. There will be other races. I'm not defeated although I may have felt that way out on the course. Things happen and I can accept that. I'll be back.

Oct 12, 2011

2011 Glacial Trail 50K (RaceReport) - Thankful for my "crew lady"

2 weeks before the Glacial Trail 50K, I emailed the race director, Robert Wehner and asked if I could be moved up to the 50 Mile race. He said sure, no problem at all. Just let me know if anything changes. Well, not that I couldn't have run it, but I came to my senses and quickly switched back to the 50K within a day or so. For one I knew how rocky/technical this course can be after having run the 50 Mile event back in 2006, and although training had been going as planned I wasn't so sure I was ready to test my knee at 50 Miles. And running the 50K would give me a chance to start off running with a friend, Mike Henze (2nd American / 2010 24hr World Championships). Surprisingly, this was Mike's first 50M back in 2006. For most ultras below 100 Milers, I don't usually need a crew person and mostly rely on myself and the aidstations. Well, just so happens that my wife, Pam had the following week off after the race and I asked her to make the trip with me for a nice little getaway. Not new to this ultra stuff, Pam has crewed me at many races. I by no means planned to race this 50K as the goal was to finish strong. But if things went well then having someone at the aidstations to hand out a bottle and extra gels, it could save a little time. So, after arriving at the hotel in Sheboygan, WI, we drove to Greenbush(start/finish) so that we could scout out the aidstations for Pam to easily find during the race. The good thing is that the 50K runners only needed to hit two aidstations twice. The 1st at the HWY 67 road crossing and the 2nd at Butler Lake. And the next morning came and we were off. Mike, myself and his friend Andy were off the front with about 10 other runners. I'm guessing by the time we exited the short road section to the trail there were at least 15 runners ahead of us. No worry for concern. The plan was to go out conservative and let the trail come to us. And we did just that talking nearly the entire time heading into the HWY 67 aidstation(outbound) at the 7 Mile point. We arrived in there around 1:03ish on the watch. Pam quickly spotted me coming and had a bottle ready with a couple extra gels and I was off. She was that efficient. I was feeling really good. And just like that we Mike took off blasting out of the aidstation heading for the pines. I gradually picked up the pace to match his and he bombed down some rocky hills like they were nothing. I stayed about 20-25 yds behind. And what seemed like maybe a couple miles out from the aid, I for some reason just picked up the pace and was running solo. I wouldn't see Mike again until the turnaround. At this point, I'm humming along doing my best not to do anything stupid and hit a rock that would easily take me down. On occasion I'd catch up to a runner and we'd run together chatting awhile. For the most part, I'd say I ran the next 5-6 miles solo into the Butler Lake aidstation at mile 13.3, down the steep steps with Pam ready again to hand me a bottle of HEED and extra gels. Within 10-15 seconds I was off solo again heading for the turnaround. Making my way there, I began to notice some of the early front runners making their way back to Butler Lake. I assessed how some of them looked. A few still had their game faces on and some not so much. One in particular who had her game face on was Cassie Scallon from Colorado. She was I'd say about 6th or 7th place after making the turn. I quickly made the turn after a short downhill section in about 2:22 on the clock. This would be the last time I'd look at my watch as I headed back toward Butler Lake for a 2nd time. To this point I had experienced very few low points in the race. If one did come along it only lasted about 20-30 seconds because I refused to let anything get to me. If my heartrate went up then I'd calm it down by slowing just enough. I came into Butler Lake as Pam handed me a fresh bottle and two more gels. I was off and chasing two runners who gave me a little extra motivation. We headed through a grassy section of the trail that gradually climbed uphill. They ran it and I chose to hike it fast. Eventually I would catch both of the runners as we made our way toward the 2nd passing at the HWY 67 aidstation. Me and another runner, Joel Lammers were chatting it up a bit and thinking we had at least 10 minutes to the aidstation at least. And just like that out of the pine trees there was the aidstation. Man, that section went quick we thought. I quickly grabbed a bottle from Pam and was off. Joel jokingly said I'll see you at the finish. And I said, no I'll see you at the finish. Shortly there after he took off after me. As I crossed HWY 67 I noticed another runner walking. I caught him and encouraged him on as I ran on. I somehow found another gear and picked up the pace. I was running solo and powerhiking most of the bigger hills, making sure I didn't catch my foot on a rock that would have been more than happy to take me down. Joel caught me and pushed on as I kept him insight. We'd caught 2-3 others runners making their way toward the finish. As I made a pass, I encouraged them on and didn't look back. With about 2 miles to go I caught up another runner and ran a few strides behind him as we exited the trees on to the road. We ran stride for stride as I told him if you want to pick it up, by all means. Not long after, Joel Lammers hit the road behind us about 30-40yds. I yelled back, "come up Joel catch up." At that point it didn't matter what place we finished we were so close. As we approached the finish, I could see the clock, Pam, and everyone cheering. The guy running next to me said that he was going to pick it up. I said it is all yours, go for it. I looked at the finish clock and couldn't believe that I had run the time that I did (4:33) and ran the 2nd half faster then the 1st half. Especially on a course like this one. Finished 5th Overall (4th male). Cassie Scallon ended winning the 50K outright in 4:15, smashing the female course record by over 6 minutes. I'm guessing she will be one to look out for down the road. And by the way, she recently as of 09/25/2011 won the Lake Tahoe 72 Mile Run in 10:52. ------------------------------------------ So, when you don't think you need a crew person, think again. It certainly made my morning go about as smooth as possible. Thanks again dear!!!!!

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