Thursday, April 22, 2010

Dirty River Bottoms...

First, this isn't another race report... in case that's what you were thinking. :) The Thur run this week was on part of the MN River Bottoms. We'd been led to believe we might get wet and muddy and were kinda looking forward to that, but either we were in the wrong spot or we didn't go far enough or things have dried out in the last few days. Though there wasn't much for mud and standing water, there was lots of sand and trees and other 'stuff' in the area - a result of the spring flooding.

As you can see the conditions aren't horrible, but it does seem like this area could use some help from Mr. Clean. :)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

McNaughton, Trail Mix 2010

This might be a record, at least recently - posting the day after a race. I was trying to post this last night while everything was all roses thinking I might wake up to a different story, but so far so good. So the short story is: the last two weekends I've done the McNaughton 50 mile and the Trail Mix 50k. There was some concern that a 50k the weekend after my 3rd 50 mile finish was maybe not that smart, but thankfully it seemed to work out ok.

[btw, this might get kinda long... but if you're here then you must not have anything else to do anyway :) ]

McNaughton... a couple of us decided we wanted to do McNaughton - I had heard a couple years ago that it was a good 50 with such a generous cut-off, and Karen wanted to give the 100 another shot. We put quite a bit of effort into recruiting others and were eventually successful with Mike. So the trip was set.

Here's a link to all the pictures we took: pics
Also Mike has a couple good McNaughton posts on his blog: Westy's blog

The short story here is that I finished well. I had lots of help with 'smart pacing' throughout and being pulled along at the end... so a very good run for me. It was great to see and experience that 'sipping from the tank' early is the way to go so there's something left at the end -- you can't run fast enough early to make up for walking a whole bunch at the end, so it's good to conserve and be able to still run at the end. Seems so logical but that doesn't make it easy to do. Karen, Mike, and I all ran together at the beginning and that was very good for me.

our campsite was just down from the start/finish
line - a great place to be, easy to stop in each time around

The run started early and I always like it when the sun is coming up. It got pretty warm (especially considering we weren't used to running in any sort of heat) but otherwise was beautiful weather. The course was in great condition compared to the previous mud years - but thankfully we had just enough mud and water to make it fun. And there are lots of hills so this is a tough course even without slip-sliding around on all the climbs.

So the three of us hung out for loops 1 and 2... just easing into things and enjoying the day and each other's company on a nice run. I ran the first 2 loops in my monkey shoes - I had planned on one loop but everything seemed fine so I did a 2nd. The 20 miles was my longest run in them, doubling my previous longest actually. After 2 loops switching to real shoes seemed like a good idea and that was fine too. I think the monkey shoes get me off to a good start both pace and form-wise. And they were great fun in the streams and muddy sections.

I biffed it once in the monkey shoes - on a smooth downhill my foot slipped out and I was down before I knew it. Later I went to take a picture and my camera was gone... I realized it must've popped out of my pocket when I fell. I was hoping it'd be out in the open and someone would pick it up and turn it in at an aid station - and that's exactly what happened! Yay!! Thank You, honest camera-finding trail runner! BTW, somewhere along the line there was a discussion about my monkey shoes and possible halloween costumes so now they are my monkey/flintstone shoes. :)

this is the hill that normally has a rope... we think Andy took that too

Mike knew he'd have some issues with hydration and fueling so as expected/planned he dropped back to try and work through things towards the beginning of loop 3. And nothing against Karen but by the end of loop 3 I was trying to drop back and run on my own too. :) It seems there's just something about wanting to drop off from a stronger runner when you start feeling tired... but it didn't work for very long so I basically ran with Karen the rest of the way and she helped pull me along to a good finish. Of course, she was hanging back and being smart trying to conserve through the hot part of the day for her next 50 miles. So click click click went the clock as we kept plugging along until finally Mike and I were quite happy and relieved to be done with our 50 miles.

So once I was done it was nice hanging out by the finish, relaxing, chatting with Mike, eating, cheering for others as they came through, and sleeping. Once Karen got rid of the dead weight (me) she had a great 6th loop. Unfortunately the heat of the day took its toll and she got sick on loop 7. And since I was up when she came through and Mike wasn't (well, not really anyway) I got to feel like a jerk doing the "oh no you don't want to drop, are you really sure, couldn't you try this, couldn't you try that, blah blah blah" -- it seems like that's what you're supposed to do, at least a little bit... but shoot, when someone's sick it's kinda hard to say with much conviction "you should go back out there again and hey, it might be better this time". So she made the smart decision to bag it, and it became clear after 4-5 hours of sleep that she had made the right decision as she was still not feeling that well as we packed up and headed back to MN.

So it's always a downer when someone in the group doesn't get what they were after but all in all it was a fun trip, and a good run for me with all the pacing/pulling help. It's a nice course with some variety in the different sections... and it's a tough course with or without the mud. Definitely a race to do if you're at all thinking about it. Road trip next year??


Trail Mix... so on the way back from McNaughton I got this crazy idea to run Trail Mix. 4 loops seemed like a perfect setup for more practice with the smart pacing - this time doing it myself instead of just following along with others doing the work. And I thought maybe I'd even be able to do the whole thing in my monkey/flintstone shoes, raising my longest run in them to 50k. So the plan was to run 'ridiculously slow' [note: this is a phrase that registers with my brain which always seems to think we're running 5 miles and can't compute an appropriate pace for 31 or 50 miles] early with the main goal to be able to run reasonably well on loop 4... not a walk, shuffle, walk, shuffle, "I've crashed and burned" finish. Taking into consideration the recent 50 mile and other numbers my plan on paper was to run the loops in 1:45 with the option of trying to run faster on loop 4 if everything went well.

---loop 1 : I figured it'd be hard to run a 1:45 loop and I was right - finished in ~1:33, with a bathroom stop and trying to walk all inclines no matter how small. The problem here though was keeping the pace way down on the 2nd half when all the 25Kers came flying by.

---loop 2 : I started feeling it, went to the tunes early, and was entertaining the questions: was this a good idea, am I going to have to drop? I eventually realized I was being worked over with the monkey/flintstone shoes - the body wasn't handling the impact like it should - and I decided the cushioning of my shoes would be really nice. Finished in ~1:39.

--loop 3 : I changed into real shoes and that helped a lot, gave me quite a boost right away. I stuck with the 'take it easy' approach and everything just kinda smoothed out and started feeling good again. Oh, I suppose that was the ibu kicking in. Saw Kel on the course with her monkey shoes and she ran back to the start/finish area with me. Thanks for the picture, Kel. Finished in ~1:38.

--loop 4 - since I was feeling quite good I decided for this final loop that I could 'release the hounds' [note: this is a phrase that registers with my brain but it doesn't necessarily mean anything noticeable happens]. It basically started with me running up the smaller inclines that I had previously walked. And then eventually I was actually running harder and faster than I had all day. It was actually kinda fun to be cruising along and, believe it or not, passing people. It might've even looked to my fellow back-of-the-packers like I had been sandbagging. Well, the best part of all that is the smart pacing worked - I actually did it right and it was successful... woohoo! Maybe there's hope after all. Of course, lest I get a big (bigger?) head... I didn't pace all that well on the last loop so I had to back off the last part and save some for the hill at the end. Finished in ~1:22, by far my fastest loop of the day.

As far as trail runs go, Trail Mix is an easy course... especially when they take the ski hill out like they did again this year. So the other crazy part of this plan was that even taking it quite easy, if things held together I figured I could PR. My previous 50K PR was ~7:26 at Chippewa last year. 4 loops of 1:45s would've given me 7 hours, so I thought best-case I might end up in the 6:40-6:50 range. I was so focused on pacing against my previous loops using the cool Virtual Training Partner of my Garmin that I wasn't paying any attention to the total race time... so I was pretty surprised to see 6:13 on the clock as I finished! That still seems crazy to me, like they messed up the timing or something. Oh, and as a double bonus... rumor has it the real medals we got this year are way better than what they handed out in previous years. hehe

Along the way I had some short conversations with people - I was surprised how many asked about my monkey/flintstone shoes - but I basically ran by myself, with the tunes going for most of it (for those who wonder I run with one headphone in and one out). It was a lot of fun seeing friends out there, both running and spectating... including a good-sized group from Duluth. It seems like the last couple weekends were the kick-off to the race season in this part of the country, so let the fun begin (continue)!

So what's next for me? Besides some rest and recovery I'm going to try to run the Ice Age 50 mile within the 12 hour cut-off (gulp). I had decided to save this for next year and I'm not sure who to blame for the change in plans (well, ok, I do know who to blame...), but I'm going to give it a shot. I don't know if I can run a 50 mile that fast, so the plan is to use my new smart pacing skills to run the best time I can... and hope it's fast enough. Anyone want to come along??

Still here? If you made it all the way through you can consider yourself an ultra reader!

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Land Between Lakes 50 mile 60K...

Well it's almost time for my next road trip so I guess I better write about the last one. Somehow I find myself in a "50 mile per month" club and March's entry was Land Between Lakes in Grand Rivers, Kentucky. The trip was shorter than the Texas trip but we still ended up driving through the night on the way down. Well, Mike from Michigan ended up driving through the night... more on that later. Mike W. (Westy) sent along a CD of southern artists for our 'education' and traveling enjoyment.

Land Between Lakes is 4 races, all with an 11-hour time limit. That's right, 11 hours for the 50 mile. Basically you run out of town at the beginning, do 1-4 loops, and then run back into town. 4 loops and an extra out-and-back gives you the 50 miles, and 3 loops gives you the 60K (37.2 miles). There's no penalty for dropping down a race - you just decide not to do any more loops [or miss the last loop cut-off] and head back to town and get the appropriate finish. And you get the same award for the 60K as you do for the 50 mile - a belt buckle. So even though I didn't feel there was any way I'd be able to make the last loop cut-off I decided to sign up for the 50 and give it a whirl. And hey, it involved a road trip which was a lot of fun last time.

Last year's race included a lot of rain so we were thankful not to have any [correction: it actually did rain on those out there the full 11 hours]. The course was in good shape - some muddy spots from rain earlier in the week but it wasn't a problem. It was pretty hilly with some long gradual climbs... especially the 2nd half. I found the 1st half of the course was easier than the 2nd.

So here's the gang at the beginning...

Loop 1: I ran out of town with Rick and Steve... until Steve ditched us on the road, and Rick ditched me as soon as we hit the loop. From then on I ran by myself. It was pretty crowded on the single track loop and I kept getting passed by the same people - guess I did a better job than they did getting in and out of the aid stations. My total time after loop 1 was ~2:30 which was about 15 minutes ahead of what I was shooting for. Yup, too fast. Saw Mike, filled my bottle, grabbed some grub and got outta there. Here are solo shots of each of us during loop 1...

Loop 2: I saw Rick early on as his stomach was off. He said he wasn't doing the 50 even if he made the cut-off and I said something like "it's your duty to go on if you make it for all those who don't/can't make it". Let me just say right now that was a bunch of baloney with no merit at all - sorry, Rick. [More on that later too.] It was less crowded as people spread out and/or headed back to town after one loop. And I started feeling it towards the end of this loop... as in more tired, stiff, sore than I should be at this point in the race. Yup, too fast early on. Loop 2 was about 2:30 (I was shooting for loops of 2:25) for a total time of 5 hours... about 10 minutes ahead. Saw Mike again, replenished, and off I went.

Loop 3: I put my long-sleeved shirt back on, turned on the tunes, took off and after about 2-3 miles wasn't able to run very well/smoothly so started the walk, shuffle, walk, shuffle pattern. Early on I thought I might still make the last loop cut-off but started realizing I'd be toast if I did. I noted my marathon time was ~5:50. 50K time was ~7:05, an unofficial PR by 20 minutes. And Karen went cruising by at ~31.5 miles, still running well and by my calculations very close to making the cut-off. Going in I didn't think I'd make the cut-off but I didn't want to settle for the 60K based on that prediction... and I felt satisfied that I gave it my best (though maybe not smartest) effort. Basically it turned out my race was to see if I could make the cut-off of 35.6 miles in 7:45 - 11 hour pace for 70% of a 50 miler anyway.

So what's the rest of the story?? Well, I made it. As I finished loop 3 figuring I was done they told me I made it and could go on and finish the 50 mile. Huh? I guess the race started a little late so they changed the cut-off time from 1:45pm to 2pm... and a woman told me I made it by 43 seconds. Doh! Remember what I was telling Rick earlier?? yeah, total baloney!! :) I was happy to make the adjusted cut-off but that didn't change the fact that I was done. I had just shuffled the last 8-9 miles and did loop 3 in ~3 hours so I said "thanks but no thanks" and headed back to town. The previous 3 pictures are showing "you made it!", "I have nothing left...", and what kinda looks like a walk of shame but that's not how I was feeling - must've just been tired. :)

So how did everyone else do? Steve made the cut-off by a long-shot but chose to take the 60K finish for his first ultra. Karen made the cut-off, didn't want to go on but did anyway to be our only 50 mile finisher. I made the cut-off, didn't want to go on so didn't and got the 60K finish. And Vicky and Rick both completed the 60K as well. So the final count was 1 50 miler and 4 60Kers. And one awesome support person!

And then there was Mike, the man! Mike is recovering from injury and wasn't able to run, so he did everything else. He drove all the way from Madison to Grand Rivers through the night, and then all the way back on Sunday. During the race he crewed for us, cheered for us, took pictures... and it was great to see a friendly, familiar face and have someone to talk to at the end of each loop. Thanks, Mike - you were great and I hope you're back to running again soon!

So what's next?? The McNaughton 50 mile next weekend!!!