Monday, October 13, 2014

Grindstone 100 Race Report

"If you start to feel good during an ultra, don't worry, you will get over it." - Gene Thibeault

A few questions I have been asked one too many times are Why do you run so much? Why do you put your body through that? and, my personal favorite, What are you running from? My typical response is I like to test the limits of what my body can do.  Last weekend while I was at the Grindstone 100 - I realized why I run so much.  I train hard so that I have the opportunities to run races like the Grindstone 100.

Tent City
When I showed up to Camp Shenandoah where the start/finish was on Thursday, I wasn't sure what to expect.  After setting up camp I chatted with a few of the other racers for the rest of the evening.  By the time I woke up on Friday and ate a small breakfast, it was time to check in. After the prerace meeting I tried to relax for the next few hours before the race started.  I tried sleeping but that was nearly impossible... the adrenaline was starting to kick in.  Finally around 5:00 p.m. I slowly made my way to the start line to prepare for the race. We waited inside the dining hall for close to an hour due to the rain.  At 6:00 p.m. it was time to start, and 263 brave souls took off for the mountains in what would turn out to be a cold, wet race.

If the race ended here I would have won but unfortunately we still had 100 miles to go!
As we made our way around the lake in the opening mile, I was running in the front at a modest pace. I settled into a nice pace
Andrew Snope and I around 5 miles
early on knowing I had a long night ahead of me. The first 5 miles went by without any issues. As it grew darker, I started the first big climb of the race, a 3500 ft climb stretched out in to 5 miles.  It was raining as we made our way higher and higher.  I felt good on the climb up to the top of Elliots Knob.  Once at the top you punch your bib before heading back down the gravel road and onto a single track.  I didn't want to push the pace on the descent so I let the lead group go.  My lack of technical trail running showed up on this descent as I fell twice within a 5 minute span.

The next few miles were a blur as I pulled through Dowells Draft aid station at mile 22 in 3:54.  I felt good.  I grabbed some bananas and oranges and took off for the trail spending less than a minute at the aid station.  

Somewhere around the 24-25 mile mark things turned from good to terrible because I started to feel sharp pains in the knee that I had surgery on in late June.  I immediately started to walk because I was afraid of doing any more damage to it.  I was not sure if it hurt because I fell or if I stepped on it wrong, but either way I decided to play it safe and walk it out.  While walking I was on an emotional roller coaster.  My first thought was that I'd have to drop because I still had 75 miles to go.  Luckily I was in the middle of the woods so I had no choice but to keep walking.  Somewhere during my stroll I changed my mind - I decided I would walk the remaining 75 miles because I had 38 hours to finish. I knew that I needed to complete this race in order to qualify for Hard Rock and Western States.

I took some Ibuprofen and just continued walking. When I arrived at the Lookout Mountain aid station, I grabbed some fruit and refilled my water bottles.  As I was walking out of the aid station I decided to try running.  Low and behold my knee wasn't bothering me too much.  So for the next 6 miles I ran what I could and walked when I had too.  I caught up to John Robinson, and we ran together into the North River Gap aid station at mile 36.  

Typically I don't use drop bags because my wife crews for me - but since she couldn't make this trip, I had no choice but to use them. I've heard horror stories from other runners in different races about how long it can take to locate a drop bag.  To my surprise by the time I weighed in, a volunteer already had my drop bag ready for me. I was looking forward to the treat I had waiting for me in my bag... Naked Juice.  I started drinking these juices at Delirium 24hr, and I will continue to use it in the future because it tastes amazing.  It's not only refreshing but it also gives you the calories and sugar needed during a long run.  

This is where things started to turn around for me and I have to thank John and my mango Naked Juice for that.  We had a 7 mile 4,000 ft climb staring us in the face.  John was in front dragging my butt up this thing.  He was flying up it and I was doing everything I could in order to stay with him.  There were parts of this climb that were stupid steep but then there were runnable parts.  John and I didn't talk much during the climb.  We just put our heads down and kept climbing.  We passed a couple of runners along the way and 1 hr 57 minutes later we were at the top.  I can say without a doubt that if I was by myself during that section it would have taken me 20-30 minutes longer.

Once at the top, we started running again.  It was easy dirt road running which was a great change from the technical single track earlier in the race.  We made quick work of the Little Bald Knob aid station at mile 44 and kept moving towards Reddish Knob aid station, which was just 4 miles away.  The rain had stopped and the stars had come out which made it a little more enjoyable.  We had a quick climb up Reddish Knob where we punched our race numbers again before we headed to the turn around.  John and I ran a good portion of the road section before reaching the turn around 10:46 into the race.  I was extremely excited to feel this good 51.5 miles into the race.

We hiked a good portion of the road back up to the Reddish Knob aid station before grabbing some grilled cheese sandwiches.  I rarely eat things like that during a race but it was cold, and my body craved something warm.  John and I ran a pretty good pace on the road back.  We turned onto a single track trail which meant it was time for a long descent back into North River Gap aid station.  We could start to see the first signs of daylight. Not quite ready to turn off our head lamps, we took the beginning part of the descent slowly.  With a couple of miles left of the descent it was light enough to turn our headlamps off which gave me a jolt of energy.  John stopped to eat something and I pushed on down the mountain.  I picked up a couple of other runners and even caught up to my buddy Andrew Snope.  I was flying down the mountain and came into North River Gap full of energy.  I stuffed my face with a lot of food and weighed in.  Once again, the volunteers had my drop bag ready for me before I finished weighing in. I pulled out my other Naked Juice and hit the trails.

At that time, I was in 11th place and I was head hunting the people in front of me.  I was running fast and closing the gap on them.  The next 6 miles were runnable and I wanted to take advantage of that.  I had the feeling that we all seek during an ultra... a feeling that I could run forever.  With each and every stride I took I was gaining ground.  Within 6 miles I had gained 12 minutes on the runner ahead of me.  At the next aid station, I quickly refilled my water bottles, grabbed some oranges and kept going.

It was 8 miles to the next aid station.  I was still feeling good and ran a majority of the trail to Dowells Draft aid station.  I was hurting but knew I would be able to push through the pain as I only had 22 miles left.  I came into the aid station in 10th and left in 9th. Shortly after leaving the aid station, the trail turned up.  Up and up I went.  I did not recall any of this from earlier in the race.  It just kept going.  It sucked every bit of energy I had out of me.  For as good as I was feeling just a few miles ago, I was feeling that bad up this climb.  Eventually I made it to the top and when I tried running I had nothing.  I couldn't run the flats and I couldn't run the downhills.  I was in a world of hurt.

I walked as fast as I could hoping that I would be able to start running again but every time I tried I was unable to. My knee was practically screaming out at me. I walked all the way to the Dry Branch aid station at mile 87.  I left the aid station knowing I had one more big climb left.  About 1 mile up that climb I turned around and saw Andrew flying up the climb.  He said a few encouraging words to me before taking off for a strong 7th place finish.  After about 3 more miles, I made it to the turn off to head down Elliots Knob. I thought that I would be able to let gravity take over and run down the gravel road, however I was sadly mistaken.  I tried running but my quads and knee were shot. So I walked.  Eventually the road leveled off, and I was able to muster up an "ultra shuffle" into the final aid station.  

As I left, I really tried to enjoy the last 5 miles.  Knowing my race was almost over, my energy returned.  I was able to power hike the short climb and once at the top I was able to run again.  It felt good.  Once I was back at the boyscout campground, I only had 1.5 miles left.  I started to think about the journey that I just went on.  All of the ups and downs and how much I truly enjoy ultra running.  I made my way back around the pond and onto the final stretch.  I crossed the finish line in 22:33:30.  My comeback to ultra running was complete.

Clark Zealand, the race director, put on a first class event.  This race embodies everything that is ultra running. I rarely run the same race twice but I look forward to returning to this race next year at 100% and shaving a couple hours off my time.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Preparing for my 100 mile adventure in the mountains

"The very basic core of man's living spirit is his passion for adventure." - Christopher McCandless

On Friday at 6 p.m., I will line up with a very large and competitive field at the Grindstone 100. We don't have any mountains (or hills really) in Charleston, so to help prepare me for the 23,000+ feet of climbing I have to do in the Grindstone 100, I spent three of the last four weekends in the mountains of North Carolina and South Carolina.

On my first weekend mountain trip (September 5), I arrived to Mt. Mitchell on a Friday and managed to complete a quick and easy 15 mile run. My main run for the weekend was on Saturday - where I hammered out 25 miles. I started my run from the Black Mountain campground up to the the summit of Mt. Mitchell and worked my way along the Black Mountain Crest trail, which is deemed the most rugged trail on the East Coast by Back Packer Magazine, over to Winter Star. I planned to run the entire trail down to Bolens Gap but unfortunately weather and a lack of water caused me to turn around at Winter Star. I woke up on Sunday feeling a little sore, but forced myself to run an easy 7 miles - bringing my total mileage for that weekend to 47 miles.

Mt. Mitchell Selfie

My wife decided to join me on my second trip to the mountains. We decided to travel up to Table Rock State Park to camp.  I ran 14 miles in Charleston before leaving at noon on Friday, knowing we wouldn't arrive to Table Rock until well in to the afternoon.  On Saturday, I made my way up the Pinnacle Trail and then along the Foothills Trail to Sassafras Mountain, which is the highest point in South Carolina. Once again I was forced to turn around due to weather and lack of water... one of these days I will carry enough water on my training run (promise!). All in all, it was a good 22 mile run with tough climbs and some fun downhill single track.  Running even just that short section of the Foothills Trail really makes me want to explore all 77 miles of it and possibly make an attempt at the fastest known time... maybe next year.

View from Sassafras Mountain

I decided to head back to Table Rock to close out my third weekend training trip in the mountains. I went by myself and decided to enjoy some backcountry camping.  On Friday I ran to the top of Table Rock, then over to Pinnacle before heading down the Pinnacle Trail.  As soon as I returned to my car, I grabbed my camping pack and headed 4.5 miles back up the Pinnacle Trail to the Foothills Trail where I camped for the night. I had to sleep in running shorts since my pants were soaking wet from all the rain that poured down on me as I made my way to camp, and I didn't bring nearly enough clothing to keep me warm in my hammock - it was a rough night. I planned to get up early the next morning to see the sun rise, but quickly decided against that due to the frigid temperatures (low 40's is now considered freezing to this Charleston boy). When I finally woke up, I quickly packed up camp and dropped my things off at my car before lacing up and heading back up the trail to the top of Table Rock. I only logged a total of 25 miles, not including the 9 mile hike with a 30 lbs pack, for the weekend.

Breakfast on Bald Knob as the sun comes up

Considering I had surgery in late June and have only been training for the last month and a half, I am not sure what kind of shape I truly am in.  Ideally, I'd like to have two more weeks to train for Grindstone but I doubt the race director will move the race back for little ole me.  So come Friday when I toe the line, I am going to do what I do best... compete.  This will undoubtedly be the hardest race I have ever done.  Forget the night running or the technical single track, the elevation change alone makes me want to cry when I think about it.  No matter what happens, as long as I make it out alive, I am happy to make my return to running ultras again.

Elevation Profile of Grindstone 100

Monday, September 1, 2014

Homestead 10 x 5K - I did it for the honey!

"I sure wish it was hotter and more humid out... said no runner ever." - unknown
After one successful week back running, I had a genius idea... why not run the Homestead 10 x 5k which was the next weekend? Sure I would only have trained for two weeks before the race, and my longest run was only ten miles in the last five months, but what the hell. My knee felt good, and I had wanted to run the 10 x 5k ever since I moved to Charleston.

I thought this was a great race to ease me back into competition since I would not have to run 31 miles straight, and instead only had to run a 5k on the hour for 10 consecutive hours (ha!). I decided to sign up after promising my wife that I would stop immediately if my knee started to hurt.

As a runner, the problem with living in the south during the summer is the heat. This summer has been relatively mild, right up until three days before the race when a heat wave hit the south. I started to rethink the idea of competing in this race when I heard news anchors advising people to stay inside unless they had to go outside, and if they had to go outside to not go out during the hottest part of the day. In the end, I  decided to move forward with my plans to compete because a little bit of heat wasn't going to scare me away.

The morning of the race was overwhelming for me. I realized just how much I missed racing... not only the competition, but the ultra running community/family. There are truly no better, crazier people than ultra runners.

Lowcountry Ultra's Race Director Tim Waz (and closet Alabama fan) sounded a siren to signify the first 5k was about to begin. We lined up to the start line, and five minutes later we were off. My strategy going in to the race was to run the first few 5k's as quickly as I could, and then hold on for dear life after that.  
Photo Credit: Nicole Taylor
I started off strong and in control, running the first 5k in 20:11. After finishing I quickly grabbed some fruit and water. Before I knew it, it was time to line up again. Off we went for the second 5k, which I ran in 20:18.  I felt good after the second run, but I knew I would not be able to hold that pace throughout the rest of the race. So I planned to slow down on the third and fourth runs, which I did finishing in 21:24 and 21:48.

Photo Credit: Nicole Taylor
After the fourth run, I noticed a significant increase in temperature since the start of the race. It was extremely hot...  I'm talking so hot you could fry an egg on the pavement.  We later found out the temperature reached 102 degrees Fahrenheit, and with the heat index it was a staggering 126 degrees Fahrenheit. Downright miserable. 

Nonetheless the brave souls running this race heard the horn which meant five minutes until the start of the fifth race. My legs were hurting badly by this point. However, I found out I was in 2nd place and was determined to stay there. Bren Tompkins, aka Spiderman, was in 3rd place, and I knew I had to stay focused if I wanted to keep my place. So off we went.

Photo Credit: Nicole Taylor
I managed to run the fifth 5k in 23:06. At the end of this run, I couldn't take it anymore. I made the decision to do something I've never done before... drop from the race. I had my mind made up.  My knee wasn't hurting but my legs were screaming. I convinced myself it was okay to drop since I just started back. I sat down, and sent a text to my wife letting her know about my decision to drop. She had the perfect response, "Enjoy the pain - it was not so long ago that you were wanting to feel like this but couldn't because of your knee." I stared down at those words, and knew she was right (which is rare ;-P). I picked myself up, stretched and then made my way to the start line.

Run #6 went down in 23:45.  Bren was gaining time on me quickly.  I knew I needed one last, hard effort on loop #7. I went out with Bren on this run, losing only a handful of seconds to him with a finish of 23:30. I was a little delusional at this point. I tried not to think about the three runs I had left. 

Fueling up in between runs (Photo credit: Nicole Taylor)
At the end of the eighth run, I finished with a time of 24:03. I was exhausted both mentally and physically. I tried to continue eating fruit and drinking water after each run, but the heat was not helping my appetite. The last thing I wanted to do was eat, but remembering how the award ceremony ended at my last race, I did myself (and everyone else) a favor and forced the food down.
At the start of the ninth run, I was leading Bren by only seven minutes and forty-five seconds. I didn't want to lose my edge so close to the finish, but I knew I could only do so much. Bren took off on the ninth lap, while I was left playing catch up. I managed a finish of 24:20, while Bren moved up two minutes closer to my overall time. 

There we stood at the start of the tenth and final lap. I kept reminding myself this was the last run of the day, as if that would make this run easier.  My legs were squealing... my mind was trying to convince me to walk this one out, but I knew I would be disappointed if I did that. "Pain is temporary," is what I kept telling myself. I also thought of one of my good ultra running buddies, Masumi, who could not be at the race that day - and decided to run this last loop for him. A smile crept on to my face as I turned the corner one last time to see the finish line. I finished the last run in 25:20. 
Photo Credit: Nicole Taylor
Relieved to be done with my first race since knee surgery, I collapsed (willingly this time) on the grass for a few minutes. I was ecstatic to finish in 2nd place overall, and even more excited knowing that I would receive a jar of Tim Waz's homemade honey.

I cannot begin to express how grateful I am to be back running. My knee has made a full recovery thanks to Dr. McKoy at Southern Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, and I'm focused on my next quest - Grindstone 100.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Feels good to be sore again

"To keep from decaying, to be a winner, the athlete must accept pain... not only accept it, but look for it, live with it, learn not to fear it." - Dr. George Sheehan

To say the last 5 months have been a roller coaster ride would be an understatement. I cannot put in to words how much I ached to run during this time. After resting for several months and getting an injection in my knee, the doctor decided to run a MRI and determined that my plica band would not return to it's normal size. The doctor recommended arthroscopic knee surgery on June 23rd, and we scheduled surgery for June 24th.  My surgery went really well, and the doc told me I could start running 4 weeks post surgery.  At the end of the fourth week, my knee still didn't feel great so I decided to take an additional week off to give my knee the extra time to heal. At the end of the fifth week, I started running a couple of days a week - no more than 1-2 miles at a time.  Talk about a tease - I really had to practice my self control so that I wouldn't hurt my knee again. By week 6 I was able to run with only a little bit of pain.  When I went back to the doctor for my post-op checkup at the end of week 6, he gave me the green light to start running based off of my pain level.

Within the past week I have made major progress with my running. My knee feels great, and (knock on wood) I haven't felt any pain.  What I have noticed is how out of shape I got in the 5 months of being injured. I am making sure to slowly build my fitness and to listen to my body closely to prevent any more injuries. I have been doing a combination of running and biking.  This week alone I have run 51 miles and biked 81 miles - not too shabby for my first real week back running.

My time away from running has really made me miss two things.  1) I really missed lacing up my shoes to go for a run before the first glimmer of sunlight appeared.  Over the past week I have retrained my body to get up at 4 am to run, and it feels great. I love running in the morning because very few people are out on the roads. In my opinion, there is no better way to start a day than with a good run.

2) For some sick reason, I have missed the pain that I have in my legs right now.  Every time I get up from my desk, I am reminded how much my muscles hurt.  I am reminded that I have a long ways to go to get back into the shape I was in before my injury, but each and everyday I am getting stronger and faster.  I have to reteach myself to embrace the pain and push past it.  I have to reprogram not only my muscles but also my mind to learn to run with the pain.  I have to learn to live with the pain and not fear it, but welcome it.

This is not something that is going to happen overnight.  It's going to be a tedious process but I am confident that come October 3rd, I will have trained enough to get by body where it needs to be to get through the grueling race known as Grindstone.

It's been a long time coming, but I am back. Roll Tide!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Injury Update

"Rome wasn't built in a day." - unknown

So finally after 3 months of no running my knee is... still a no go.  I went to Southern Orthopedics & Sports Medicine yesterday to see exactly what was going on since my own diagnosis clearly was not correct.  After taking some x-rays the Doc came back in to the room with some good news. He told me the x-rays came back negative and that I have no ligament damage.  A major sigh of relief came over me.  Next he performed a physical exam on my knee and said it was mechanically working great.  More good news!  So what was my issue?  His response - swollen plica band. If you're like me, you're probably wondering what the hell is a plica band.  According to the definition on Sports Stars from Dr. Nirav Pandya, "The plica is a band of synoyial (joint lining) tissue which can become pinched between the femur (thigh bone) and the patella (knee cap).  Although we have multiple plicas in our knee, the plica on the inside (medial) of the knee most commonly causes discomfort to athletes."

Wow, this could not be more true.

 The doctor gave me an injection hoping to decrease the inflammation.  He told me to rest for another week and said that should help my knee feel better soon.  After a week of rest, I can resume low impact activities like biking and the elliptical for 2 weeks. I have a follow up appointment with him in 3 weeks where I hope to get the okay to start running again.

For the past 2 weeks I have been biking to and from work.  It is about a 25 mile round trip so I have been averaging about 120-130 miles a week.  Hopefully next week I can resume that plus add in some work on the elliptical.  I'm hoping this will help me gain some fitness back so when I do run I will not have to start off out of shape.  I know I will not be able to just start banging out the miles but within a few weeks I expect to be back in the full swing of things.

I'm disappointed that I won't be able to run Bad Marsh this month (which just so happens to be on my Dirty 30 birthday), but lucky for me, it looks like I may be back in time to compete in the Cremator in July. I really want to run the Double Cremator but I don't want to push my luck too quickly. I plan to  run smart and see how I'm feeling at the beginning of July before deciding on running the single or double Cremator. There is some pretty stiff competition at Cremator this year so although I will not be at the fitness level that I hoped to be at, hopefully I will be close.

Yes, I lost 3 months of running but what I gained was that itch to run again.  I do not have to worry about getting burned out in the summer months which sometimes happened to me.

I know I've been MIA with my running crowd, but I look forward to seeing you all out on the road soon!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Run Grateful Because Every Mile Is A Gift

"Run Grateful Because Every Mile Is A Gift!" - unknown

So things have not gone according to plan since my Delirium 24hr race.  I hurt my knee doing a track workout and had hoped to recover in time for the South Carolina Track 24.  Unfortunately, I was not able to participate in that race because my knee was still bothering me.  I then took a full 2 weeks off to give my knee a rest hoping to recover in time for Fort Clinch 100, which is in late April.  Sadly, last Saturday after a short run it started to hurt again.  At this point I am really frustrated because all I want to do is get back to doing what I love to do.  So now what?

Seeing as my big race for the year is Grindstone 100, I want to make sure I am fully recovered so I can have a stellar performance at what will be the toughest race I have done to date.  I am currently wearing a knee brace to stabilize my knee, and I am staying off of it as much as possible.  I am not sure how long I will be out of commission but it will be at least another 2-3 weeks... possibly more.

I am trying to stay positive but it is proving to be difficult especially since the weather is getting better, and all I want to do is go running.  I used to struggle some days just getting out to run, whether it be because of the weather or just a lack of motivation. I now realize how much I took my health for granted.  I can assure you that whenever I am able to start running again I will be grateful every time I lace up my shoes.  It doesn't matter if I am running along a busy highway, on the beach or some beautiful trail in the woods. It doesn't matter if I am running 1 mile or 100 miles because I am quickly finding out how hard it truly is to not be able to run.

I believe this injury has allowed me a lot of time to really think and put things in perspective. I miss running with all the wonderful people I've become friends with here in Charleston. I hope to be back running with you all soon! Run one extra mile for me!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

An Unexpected Change of Plans

“You must listen to your body. Run through annoyance but not through pain.” -Dr. George Sheehan

Yesterday was a very rough day for me. I was anticipating running the SC 24 hr track race in hopes of logging 150 miles and having a shot at qualifying for the U.S. Men's team; unfortunately, I was not able to race due to a knee injury. Of course, I had it all planned out and I knew I'd be able to build off of the 120 miles I ran at Delirium.

About 3 weeks ago I completed a great track workout that consisted of 2 mile, 1 mile, 800 and then 2x400 with each distance at a faster pace.  It was the first true track workout I had done in a few weeks, and I was extremely happy with it.  My body felt great and responded well considering it was just over a week after Delirium.  About 4-5 hrs after I finished the workout, I stood up at my desk at work and could barely walk because the inside of my knee was hurting so badly.  I thought it was just sore so I took a couple of days off expecting it to get better.

Over the next couple of weeks my knee was starting to feel better, so last Saturday I decided to go on a test run. I knew that if it hurt during that run that I would have to drop out of the 24 hr race. Sadly, I was only able to run 7 miles before it started to hurt so I made the difficult decision to pull out of the race.

Looking ahead, I really need to make sure I fully recover from this injury. I am taking another complete week off from running and will reevaluate the situation next weekend. Hopefully after that I can start running again. As far as my racing schedule, I would really like to my next race to be either the Blind Pig 100 (April 12th) or Fort Clinch 100 (April 26th).  I am leaning towards running the Fort Clinch 100 simply because it will give me an additional 2 weeks of training.

I hate not being able to run and I am going stir crazy but hopefully taking an extended break will really let me recover so I can have a big rest of the year running.  

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Going for Gold: Preparing for SC 24 Hour Race

"If you want to achieve a high goal, you're going to have to take some chances." - Alberto Salazar

As the days pass after Delirium, I have finally processed what went right and what went wrong with my race. I understand there are some things you can't control, such as the weather, but other things you can.  I am extremely happy with the first 100 miles of the race but what I am disappointed in is the fact that I gave up on running so easily after that.  Even though I gave it everything I had, as soon as I crossed the 100 mile mark I was content with walking.

Luckily for me I have a chance at redemption by running in the inaugural South Carolina 24 Hour Race.  This race is organized by Ray Krolewicz on March 15th and is intended as a last chance qualifier for the U.S. team.  Taking what I learned from Delirium, I fully expect to cover the 135 miles (which is on a track) needed for qualifying.  What is unforeseen is whether or not I can cover enough miles to be selected. With 4 of the 6 spots already claimed by automatic qualifiers, that only leaves 2 spots left on the team.  Looking at the list of qualifiers and their mileage, I would have to cover 150+ miles in order to even have a chance at selection.  What does this mean for me?  I have just over 2 weeks to train my ass off and hope on race day that I have a good day.  This will be one of the toughest challenges I've ever attempted, but I do not think it is impossible.  Anyone that knows me knows I like to set high goals for myself.  I do not set unattainable goals just lofty goals, knowing that even if I do not reach my goal, I am at least pushing myself to new levels.

I am excited to get another shot at qualifying for the U.S. team. As always, I appreciate all of my support team! I am especially grateful to my wife who encourages me to keep pushing forward and attempting the unthinkable. Thanks for the motivation and positivity!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Delirium 24 hour: The Tale of Two Races

Walking the course the day before
I made my way down to Ridgeland, SC on Friday with plans to run a lot of miles at the Delirium 24 hour race. When I arrived, I set up camp and headed out for a one lap run on the 1.695 mile course.  This gave me a chance to see the course and helped loosen up my legs. There was a little bit of rain the week of the race that left a couple of small puddles on the course, but nothing too bad.  The course was absolutely beautiful as it led you through a tree-lined dirt road and along a beautiful lake. The rest of the night was spent hanging with friends and resting up for the next day's adventure.

Before the start of the race with Lara, female 1st place finisher
I woke up at 6 a.m. on Saturday to a cold chill in the air.  It had drizzled during the night, and the forecast was calling for the worst part to begin just after the start of the race. I lined up to the start line, and at 8 a.m. 143 people headed through tent city and out of sight of the start line. I started out a little quicker than I expected but the pace felt easy.  We made the first lap without any rain but within a few minutes of starting the second lap, the rain started to steadily come down.  According to the forecast, the rain would continue for the next few hours.  With 143 people mixed between the 6, 12 and 24 hour race option, this meant the course was going to quickly become a mud fest.  Lucky for me, I didn't concentrate too much on this since I was running alongside two time defending champ Garth Peterson during the first few laps .

Running just in front of Garth
Pearl Izumi N1s all wet and muddy after 4 hours of running
Lap after lap we went around and around. I made sure to eat some type of gel or fruit every other lap. I planned to stay ahead of my nutrition early on. My pace was relatively steady throughout the morning but never felt quite right towards the end of the morning. All I could do was push through the uneasiness and hope to turn things around. Going through and around the mud was starting to take a toll on my legs and my shoes. After about 4 hours (I think) the rain finally stopped and the sun started peaking through the sky. Since that was all of the rain that was in the forecast and the course was starting to dry up, I changed out of my Pearl Izumi N1s and into a clean pair of Hokas. I didn't plan to wear my Hokas so early in the race but with my N1s covered in mud I had no choice.

Once I changed into my Hokas, I quickly got back into the groove of running laps and dodging mud puddles.  I came through the 50 mile mark in just under 7:30 hours.  I knew my initial goal of running 140 miles was out of the window as my legs were hurting more than they should have been at this point.  I continued to stay on top of my nutrition by eating fruit, dates and gels.... I made sure to grab something after every lap. My stomach felt great, and my energy was high... I just had to get my legs in a good place.

59 laps equaled 100 miles and I didn't start thinking about this until lap 50.  At this point I told myself to only stop every other lap for nutrition.  As I continued logging laps, I began to focus on running 100 miles in under 16 hours.  I crossed lap 58 with roughly 18 minutes until the 16 hour mark.  I skipped the aid station and ran as fast as I could on the dry spots of the course.  Even though I still had 8 hours left to race, I did not care.  I wanted sub 16 hours. I maneuvered through the largest muddy section very carefully to ensure I did not fall.  Once I cleared this section, I opened my stride. Hollering and screaming I came around the corner and over the line in 15:58:10.  Sub 16 hours was big for me.

Once I hit sub 16 hours for 100 miles, I stopped for 15 minutes or so.  I sat at the aid station for a while eating and talking to the volunteers. After that, I tried running but the 15 minute break made my legs stiffen up so I slowly transitioned into a jog.  In my head I really did not care what happened the rest of the race but I still wanted to keep going, even if it meant walking for 8 hours.  I was able to muster up a slight run, if that is what you want to call it.  I knocked out 2 more laps before the 17 hour mark.

At the 17 hour mark, I knew there would be no more running for me. My challenge now was to see  how many miles I could cover by walking and if I could keep my first place finish.  I reached a very low point and my beautiful wife joined me for the next 4 1/2 hours as I walked.  We were covering good mileage until about the 21 hour mark when my pace dropped from sub 30 minute laps to 45 minutes per lap.  I was stumbling around the course like a drunken idiot. I tried to eat every lap to see if I could make any energy return to my body but nothing changed. I planned to call it quits at lap 70 but after a little convincing from my wife, we decided to head out for one more lap.  This lap was a big blur for me.  I was barely able to stay upright, but with her motivation I made it around the loop and back to the finish.  As I crossed the line, I called it quits with 1 1/2 hours to go. I made a major mistake after I finished... I did not eat or drink anything. Because of this, after we took a few pictures... I passed out. I quickly recovered thanks to the help of Tim and Joe, but I learned not to scare the crap out of my wife, other runners and crew again.

RD Tim Waz presenting me with the first place trophy
I ended up running a total of 120.34 miles. The weather made it a long, tough day on the course.  A huge congratulations to 2nd place finisher, Garth Peterson, who finished with a total of 116.96 miles and still looked strong at the end.  Birthday girl, Lara Zoeller, won the female's race and finished 3rd overall covering 115.26 miles. What a way to celebrate a birthday! All in all we had 11 people finish with 100 miles or more.

If you haven't had a chance to run a Lowcountry Ultra race, I highly recommend it!  They are not only well organized but they are also a lot of fun. I'm glad my first 24 hour race was a part of this race series. I look forward to next years race, and I promise not to pass out next time!

Belt buckle for running at least 100 miles in the race
Feeling good at this point
Nice lake view to enjoy while running

Group shot of all the 100 mile finishers (this was right before I passed out!)

A few of the runners and crew warming up by the fire after the race

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Preparing for Delirium 24hr

"Set your goals high because what a person accomplishes is in proportion to what they attempt."
- Mitchell Naufell

With a little over one week until the Delirium 24hr race, I am trying to finalize my race plan.  Since this is my first 24hr race, I am not sure what to expect other than a lot of pain. The course is on a 1.7 mile trail which is flat and fast, and I am hoping to cover a lot of miles… 140 to be exact. 
Training has been okay but not great.  I haven’t been able to log as many miles as I would have liked heading into this race, but in January alone I have three 30+ milers and another two 26 mile runs under my belt.  My pace varied between 8:15 to 9:00 minutes per mile, and all of my long runs have felt relatively easy.  I’m hoping my long runs have made up for the lack of overall weekly mileage.

As with all ultras, there are two race strategies: 1) start out slow and hold that pace longer or 2) start out quick, gain time (in this case miles) and do the ultra shuffle all the way to the end. I have discovered that more times than not, option 1 is the best option; knowing this, most of the time I still end up choosing option 2.  A part of me wants to see how fast I can run 100 miles and then worry about the rest of the race after that; however, the other part wants me to run a smarter race in order to cover more miles.  Hopefully I will be able to find a middle ground between those two options come race day.  My ideal race strategy, which I am going to try and stick to as close as possible, is to cover the first 100 miles in sub 16hrs.  To break it down even further, I would like to cover the first 50 miles in sub 7:30 hrs then the next 50 in 8 to 8:30 hrs. That would leave me 8 hrs to cover the final 40 miles.

I have wanted to run a 24hr race for a while now, and I am so excited that my first one will be Delirium. I look forward to seeing what I can do, and if I can accomplish running 140 miles in 24hrs. Stay tuned!