Monday, December 23, 2013

2013 Year in Review

"People who succeed have momentum. The more they succeed, the more they want to succeed, and the more they find a way to succeed." - Tony Robbins

What a year 2013 has been.  It started off with a 2nd place finish at a cold and muddy 50k in February.  Then in March I had my first win in an ultra at the Oak Mountain 50k.  After that my wife and I decided to move from Nashville, TN to Charleston, SC.  My running slacked for the next few months until we moved in May but I regained the motivation to start logging miles again after the move. 

I have run this bridge many times since moving to Charleston
I quickly realized that running in Charleston is completely different than running in Nashville.  There are very few trails and zero hills other than a bridge in Mount Pleasant leading to downtown.  A lot of the runners here seem to care more about 5k and 10k times rather than 50 mile or 100 mile times but this has benefitted me greatly.  I have joined several running groups, and I run a lot more track workouts now.  My speed has increased, and I have kept the fitness needed to be successful in ultra running. 

I took another win at the Cremator 50 Mile Ultra in July.  It was hot and I did not eat nearly enough calories but managed to build up a big lead and hung on for dear life in the last 12 miles.  The Cremator helped me take a major step forward in my running because it was in that race that I realized I need to take in a lot more calories and stay hydrated in order to finish strong in my races.  I know this should be common sense but it is easier said than done. 

I tested out my new found epiphany at the Long Cane 50k.  Even though I started off with plans of running the 55 mile option I had to drop down to the 50k due to a knee injury.  I felt great taking gels every 20-30 minutes. Even after 5 hours of running I felt like I could have kept going, aside from my knee issue.  The big test was the last weekend of September at the North Face Endurance Challenge in Atlanta.  I took one hour off of my previous years’ time and finished in 3rd.  I was in the lead through mile 44 but ended up losing it to two great runners.  I took 20 gels in the span of 8 hours and it kept my energy high.  I lost, not because of my nutrition, but because of my fitness.  I finished off the year with a win and course record at Mad Marsh 50k.

Thinking back to the beginning of 2013, I never imagined it would turn out to be such a great year. I had planned some big goals for myself and ended up surpassing all of them. Looking forward to 2014 I am very excited about what lies ahead.  Lowcountry Ultras is starting a points system for their races and at the end of all 5 races whoever has the least amount of points (points are given cross country style; i.e. 1st = 1 point, 5th = 5 points….you get the idea) wins the series.  The winner will get some swag plus entry into all 2015 races.  The races include Delirium 24hr, Bad Marsh 50k, Cremator 50 Miler with the option to run the Double Cremator, Homestead 10x5k and finally the Mad Marsh 50k.  I have all 5 races on my schedule for 2014 as I have every intention of winning the series.  If you think you have what it takes, check out their website and come out and challenge me. 

Also on the schedule for the first weekend of October is the Grindstone 100 in Swoope, Va.  This race has a measly 23,300 feet of climbing and 23,300 feet of descending on some of the most technical trails in the nation.  I get goose bumps just thinking about it.  Here is a description of the race on their website: “Grit, endurance, temporary loss of sanity.  You might need all of these if you want to attempt Grindstone.  If you want to finish, well, just keep in mind this is, without a doubt, the hardest 100 miler east of the 100th meridian.” I have read race reports from all levels of runners, and they have all said this is one of the most difficult races they have ever attempted.

Other than the races I mentioned, I would love to add 1-2 more races to my schedule. Right now I am thinking I would like to add a 50 or 100 mile race in the spring on the East Coast - so if you know of a good one, please let me know. 

Thanks for reading all about my adventures in running the ultra mile. If any of you are ever in the Charleston area, I encourage you to reach out to me so we can go for a run. There’s no better way to explore a new city than through running – trust me.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Mad Marsh 50K Race Report

"A lot of people run a race to see who is fastest. I run to see who has the most guts, who can punish himself into exhausting pace, and then at the end, punish himself even more. Nobody is going to win a 5,000 meter race after running an easy 2 miles. Not with me. If I lose forcing the pace all the way, well, at least I can live with myself." - Steve Prefontaine

Mad Marsh 50K consists of seven 4.5 mile loops on an old golf course in which the cart path has been removed exposing the grass and sand.  Although I missed a couple of long tempo runs in the weeks leading up to the race, I was still satisfied with my fitness level.  I felt good on Saturday, November 23rd as my wife and I made the 2 hour trek down to Beaufort, SC at 3:45 a.m.

After catching up with a few buddies, I did a quick warm up before heading to the start line. Anyone that knows Tim Waz (Race Director of all LowCountry Ultra races) knows that he starts on time and not a second later.  So exactly at 6:30 a.m. we were off running.  I decided to take the race out hard and then settle into a nice pace after a couple of miles.  Since it was a looped course, I knew I would have a better idea after the first lap of how slow/fast the course was. Although the entire course was flat, with the exception of one small hill, you still had grass, pine straw and sand to slow you down. I came through the first loop in 29:08.  A little faster than I intended, but I was feeling great.

The next couple of loops came and went fairly quickly and were rather uneventful.  I was holding onto my 3:30 50K pace through the 4th loop.  At the start of my 5th loop I remember telling Tim "It's gut check time" because I knew it would be hard for me to hold that pace much longer.  There was very little shade to protect you from the sun on the course so when the clouds broke it started to heat up quickly. The 5th loop I ran in 32:50 which was a full 1 1/2 minutes slower than any loop up to that point.  I continued pushing myself and hoped for a sub 3:40 finish.

Going into the 6th loop I needed to cover the last 9 miles in 1:07 in order to go sub 3:40.  I told myself it was possible and went on my way as I took a couple of clif gels.  Everytime I got in to a  groove, I would hit another sand patch that was just big enough to slow me down.  I forced myself to stay relaxed and smooth on this lap before giving it everything I had on the final lap.  When I came back to the start/finish line I knew it would be difficult to break 3:40 so I made a quick stop to refill my water bottle.  At this point, I knew I had to run the last lap in 32 minutes and went for it.  After a 1/2 mile I began to believe that I would get it done.  Even though my legs hurt I felt like I had just enough left to finish sub 3:40. Then out of no where I lost all energy in my legs.  My pace dramatically dropped and all hope disappeared.  I cruised into the finish line with a time of 3:43:58. Tim congratulated me,  I kissed my wife and we sat down to cheer on the rest of the racers.

A big Congratulations to Sara Maltby who finished in 2nd place with a time of 4:01:05 and absolutely crushed the women's course record.  Considering the race is in November, you wouldn't expect for it to be so warm - so Congratulations to everyone who finished because it was hot out there which made for a tough day.
First place trophy 
On the way back home I made the decision that I am done racing for the year.  I thought about Lookout 50 in mid-December but mentally I need a break from racing.  I will continue to put in miles because my first 24 hour event is only 2 months away, and I have BIG plans for that race.

Now sit back, relax and enjoy a few snapshots of me from the race: