Monday, July 28, 2008

Quick Recap of Last Week

Here is a quick recap of my mileage for the week since BT50k. 'R' indicates 'Running', 'RB' indicates 'Road Biking'. A lower mileage week, mostly because I took Sunday after the race off, and I didn't run on Wednesday. I am very happy to report no lingering aches or pains from the 50k. I am not 100% yet, but probably a good 95%. To prove it, I ran 14 miles on Sunday with the SERC group and, omitting the warm-up and cool-down miles from either end, I ran it at about my marathon race pace.

On Saturday, Paul R. and I marked the trail for the Burning River 100 which will be next Saturday and Sunday. We worked from 8:00 AM until about 3:30 PM marking both north and south from Boston store. On Sunday, due to inability to get any other volunteers to show up, I worked alone finishing a section south of Columbia Road, then north from Columbia to Snowville Road. I could not keep up much of a pace with a backpack full of stuff (mallet for driving in stakes, staple gun for attaching arrow signs, lime for drawing arrows on the ground), plus carrying stakes, ribbons, and my water. I did manage to walk at a good pace, and run short sections. Mostly, I was concerned with making the trail easy to follow. I tried to look at the trail form the perspective of a runner who is not familiar with the trail, running in the dark. At any point where a runner might be unclear about the trail, I tried to make sure the path was apparent, even conspicuous. Even where the trail was well-worn and obvious, I made it a practice of marking a tree with a ribbon every 100 to 150 yards, just to reassure the runners that they were on the right path.

The lack of volunteers (or more precisely, the lack of volunteers who made actually showed up after volunteering) means we'll Paul and I will probably have to get together one or more evenings this week to get the job done. I am looking forward to Saturday, when Sue and I will be working the Boston store aid station. We'll be there for the first shift, so we'll attend to the lead runners.

Friday, July 25, 2008

BT50k Follow-Up

Firstly, I want to thank Vertical Runner for organizing the race. Also, thanks to Merrill for their sponsorship of the race. Thanks to Chef Bill for the great post-race food. And special thanks to all of the volunteers who marked the trail and worked the aid stations. The aid stations were well stocked, and everyone was well prepared and helpful. We could not have run the race without them.

Pictured here are the #1 and #2 women, Beth W. and e-speed. To the right is Kam Lee, the first place overall, with Vince from Vertical Runner, and Beth. Kam and e-speed are both SERC runners.

Here, I am emerging from the woods approaching the aid station at the halfway point. I was feeling good, keeping an excellent pace, running comfortably. Unfortunately, I was unaware that of the mistakes I had already made, i.e. failing to take my electrolyte capsules and not drinking enough to match my fluid losses.

Regarding the cramps, I've tried to reconstruct all of the pertinent information. If you have some knowledge and experience regarding preventing cramps, I would appreciate your thoughts.
I drank more than average amounts of water for the 48 hours prior to the race. I had about 24 ounces the morning of the race. I was carrying 32 ounces of Gatorade at the start. From that point forward, my recollection is unreliable. I know I had five electrolyte capsules in my pouch at the start. I might have taken the first one at Columbia Road (around 8 miles), another at around 12 miles, and a third at the halfway point. I don't remember how much fluid I took over that time, but I believe it was around 32 ounces over the first 16 miles. On the way back, I felt the first little warning spasms in my calves just prior to the Boston store, about the 18 mile mark. At Boston, I refilled my Fuel Belt, drank a cup of Heed and took an electrolyte capsule, and grabbed five more capsules for the trail. Not long after that, the cramping started in earnest, probably around 20 miles. I continued to drink and tried to take electrolyte capsules every fifteen to twenty minutes, until they were gone. Paul R. met me at Snowville Road (23 miles) and gave me a double dose of Heed. (Thanks Paul!) I topped-off my Fuel Belt, and continued on. The cramps continued unabated. By this time, both calves and thighs (hamstring muscles, not quads) where involved. I was in a pattern of running about 300 yards, getting a cramp, stretching, walking, then running another 300 yards or so. So frustrating because I knew I had many miles to go, and I felt so good otherwise.

Eventually, I made it to the finish. I remember a few of the thoughts I had as I crossed the line.
  • "That clock can't possibly be right, can it?!?!"
  • "Where's Sue?"
  • "Legs, don't cramp up on me now. I need to look good crossing the finish."
  • "I can do much better than this. I want to run it again, as soon as possible."

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Buckeye Trail 50k: The Good, the Bad, and the Crampy

I got up at 4:45 AM, not that big a deal since this is around when I normally get up for work. Most of the prep was done the night before. I had already loaded my Fuel Belt. I filled the bottles with Gatorade, and in the pouch, I packed 2 PowerBar Gels (50 mg caffeine) and 5 Electrolyte capsules.

I applied Sports Shield lubricant to my groin and underarms, and Vaseline between my toes. I taped over my nipples, then put on my shorts and mesh shirt. Given the forecast for 90 degrees and high humidity, I decided the mesh shirt would work better than my SERC singlet. I ate a light breakfast of granola and orange juice, then we were off.

Sue dropped me off at Oak Grove pavilion at about 6:00 AM, and already the place was busy with pre-race preparation. I talked with many people I knew, including Dave P., e-speed, Daisy Duc, Jeff U., Paul R., Dawn M., Kam L., Solar Squirrel, and of course, Steve Hawthorne

I turned on my Garmin, and at 7:00 AM, the race started. Paul R. is trying to come back from an injury, decided he felt good enough to at least start out with me. We picked up e-speed about six miles into the race, and we all ran together for a while. Paul's injury flared up at around 12 miles (I think), and he left dropped out. E-speed and I stayed pretty close together all the way to the half-way point and back to the Boston store.

I felt good through the first half of the race, making the half-way point at 2 hours 22 minutes. At the Boston store, I refilled my bottles, took an electrolyte pill, and packed five more in my pouch. By the time I got out of there, e-speed was already hundreds of years ahead of me and I never saw her again. I ran the rest of the race on my own, with the exception of a short distance with Dave P. , and about three miles with a young runner who's name I did not get.

Not far after the Boston store, I was getting frequent tell-tale twinges that warn of the full-on cramps to follow. Probably around the 22 mile mark, I had to stop and stretch out a cramp in my left calf. It was very discouraging because I know that once the cramps start, they tend to continue and get worse. They did. Eventually, I was stopping every few hundred yards to stretch out and walk-off cramps. I could not keep and real pace or momentum after that. I kept drinking my fluids and taking electrolytes to try to stave off the cramps, but they continued unabated. When I finally made it to Snowville Road, Paul R.met me with a double dose of Heed (a sports drink with electrolytes). He made me stop and drink it, then gave me one more before I left.
For the duration of race, I was very frustrated. I felt good, I had energy and stamina to finish strong, but the cramps would not let go of my legs. I began to get cramps in my thighs as well as my calves. This tightened my hamstrings, which forced me to bend too much at the knees, completely taking me out of my form.
At about the 29 mile mark, there was a water drop and I stopped for a quick drink. As I was leaving, I spotted Vince from Vertical Runner and heard him shout, "Less than 20 minutes to go." I really needed to hear that. I had been second-guessing the mileage showing on my Garmin, so that was very reassuring. I tried to pick up the pace, but I had to continue my pattern of stopping every 200-300 yards to stretch out a cramp. At one point, I picked up a thick stick and tried rolling it up and down my calf like a rolling pin to work out the cramps. Sounded like a good idea, but it didn't actually help. Finally, the trail opened onto Valley Parkway, and I knew I was only 1/4 mile from the finish. I had to stop three more times before I made it across, but I did make it, five hours and forty-one minutes after I started. Sue met me at the finish, and for her patience, she got a very sweaty, stinky hug and kiss.

Post Race Assessment

The Good

  • I finished my first ultra marathon.
  • I was 29th of 175 (I think) runners.
  • No injuries.
The Bad
  • Really, no bad news except for...
The Crampy
  • The cramps put the clamps on my hope for a 5 hour finish.
  • They might have been avoidable, so I need to review my hydration and electrolyte intake and better prepare for the next race.

I was OK to walk around immediately after the race, but getting up after sitting was not easy. The cramping had really done a number on my legs. My calves felt like they had been beaten with a steel pipe. The tendons in the backs of my legs were sore and tight. Here is a helpful illustration. The red arrows indicate the pain points. The yellow arrows indicate the where I experienced the strongest and most frequent muscle cramping.

After getting some wonderful food prepared by Chef Bill, and having a few cups of lemonade, Sue and I drove to sister Lisa's house, then we all went to the Beer Engine for some celebratory beverages. They had a cask conditioned bitter on the engine, York Centurions Ghost Ale, which went very well with a burger and chips. I didn't feel like staying too late, so we were home by 6:00. I ran the massager over my legs for a while, then got a great nights sleep.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Return of Tapie thte Taper

Just seven days until the Buckeye Trail 50k, so it time for our favorite pre-race mascot, Tapie the Tapir. Last weekend,I was out of town so I missed the last of the BT familiarization runs, a 22 miler. Instead, I ran a 22 miler in in the Milburn-Oranges area of New Jersey. I hit the trail by 5:45 AM because we were going into the city for a walking tour of the Greenwich Village (specifically a food tour of the west village), so I had to be home, showered, dressed, and ass in car seat by 10:15 AM. We drove back on Monday, and I didn't get a run in.
On Tuesday, I biked to work. On the way home, I was trying to beat a massive thunderstorm that was chasing me from the northwest. I almost made it, but about a mile from home the storm caught me. The winds were bad but the rain was worse. It fell so hard and heavy that I couldn't see more than ten feet in front of me. I have been in swimming pools and stayed drier. Luckily, I made it to the side streets and out of the worst of the traffic, and got home safely. Tuesdays are suppose to be speed work days at the track, but that was not happening. If the rain and wind weren't enough, the lightning convinced me that I should stay off the track. To make up for the missed speed work, I did an aggressive tempo run on Wednesday, but kept it to only 8.5 miles (It is taper time, remember.) Thursday and Friday were both 6 mile hilly runs, both at an easy pace.

I was anxious to get one last trail run in on Saturday. Thankfully, Steve Hawthorne was there, so I knew it would be a great morning. We ran the to path to Boston Store, then took the BT through Pine Lane trail back. It was only 10.5 miles, and at a moderate pace, which made Tapie the Tapir very happy.
I am getting psyched about the race. I think I'll try for about five and a half hours. Paul R., who has been hurt and was seriously considering skipping the race, asked me if he might try at least running the first half with me. Of course! He's a great runner, and I strongly suspect he'll change his mind again by race day and decide to do the whole thing. Regardless, it would be great to have him to set the pace. I hope he has a good, restful week and feels good by next Saturday.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Trail Running in South Mountain Reservation

Sue and I are in Millburn, New Jersey for the Fourth of July weekend, visiting my sister, brother-in-law, and niece. We always have a great time with them, but my one regret was that I would miss the Lock 29 trail run on Saturday and the last and longest of the BT50k familiarization runs on Sunday. I know I am not ready for the 50k in two weeks, so I wanted to get those runs in. The good news, we are less than a mile from the South Mountain Reservation, which although only 2400 acres, is full of trails.

Within an hour of our arrival on Wednesday, I set off to explore the trails. Armed with a map my sister got from the local running store, I set out. The first thing I learned was that the trails in this part of the world have occasional sections that are almost unrunnable because of the rocks. Not long after that, I learned lessons #2 and #3. Lesson#2: Once you leave the wide primary trails and get on to the narrow foot trails, they are really well marked, except for when they aren't. On the Lenape trail, I believe they left the trail marking to someone with a profound case of ADD. The yellow blazes occur every 100 feet or so in the beginning, then just disappear for a couple of hundred yard, then start up again. I lost the trail a few times, but fortunately I was able to refer to the map, get myself oriented, and eventually pick up the trail again.

Lesson #3: Just when you think you can put the hammer down and run, the roots and rocks jump out and bite you in the ankles. This is actually a variation of Lesson #1, with roots.South Mountain is full of beautiful views. At one point, after following a very narrow section of trail, heavily covered with low-hanging branches, it suddenly opened up to broad, flat area bordered with Rhododendrons.
Although the rocks were mostly a nuisance when trying to run, they do provide handy material for building very sturdy little bridges. I counted four of them, and there are probably more.
Just a quarter mile past this bridge, a waterfall was tucked into a wooded nook.

Despite the name South Mountain, the trails was not overly hilly, at least not in comparison with the Buckeye Trail, but still there were some very scenic overlooks, like the one below. I don't want to give the wrong impression; Many sections of the trails were well groomed and very runnable, as well as beautiful. Look at this trail which ran down to one of the lakes.

So, after doing about 10 miles here on Wednesday, I got a 17 miler in on Friday. My bro-in-law,Phil, ran 2.25 mile out and back, then I ran another 12 miles, taking the Lanape trail as far as it goes. Although I had to slow the pace down due to the footing and my own unfamiliarity with the trails, it was still a good run.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

June and YTD Training Summary

June was a good month. I got my miles in, 231 running and 138 on the bike. Per the plan, I increased the ratio of trail to road miles. 34% of my miles were trail running, which is about 15% higher than it had been in the first five months of the year. My left knee and right Achilles have forgiven me for the brutal, unfair way that I treated them in the first half of the year. I put them through miles upon miles in ridiculously bad weather, preparing for Boston and Cleveland marathons. When they complained, I ignored them. The more I ignored them, the more they complained. Finally, they gave up the fight, shut up, and got back to working they way they should. As a reward, I am taking them on 50k trail race filled with hills, water, hills, mud, hills, and hills. YEAAAAAAA!!!!!!

Just as a side note, I have totaled 1139 running miles in the first six months of 2008. That is nearly exactly my total for the year in 2006 (1170 miles), and a couple of hundred miles shy of my total for last year (1362 miles.) The best part of this is that I feel great, I am looking forward to the BT50k, the Chicago Marathon in October, and a few distance races to be determined in between.

The Bike:
Ive been riding to work two days a week for over a month now, and I am in a groove. Although it is a road/racing style bike, I equipped it with a rack and panier like a commuter bike. It nicely accommodates my notebook PC, my office clothes and shoes, and my lunch. The round trip is 25.5 miles, filled with hills. Seriously, there is not one flat stretch of more than 1/4 mile. I leave in the morning right at dawn, about 5:45 AM this time of year, when there is very little traffic. Even so, I must look like the a UFO with all the flashing lights and reflective clothes. (Note the neon yellow top and red reflective vest. Stylin', oh yea.) Coming home, the traffic is much worse, so I take the longer way that winds through the Bedford Reservation. It takes about an hour and twenty minutes, but it is a scenic, less stressful ride.