2015 Miwok 100k

We crested the top of the historic Dipsea trail towards the Cardiac Aid station, the first climb of seven big hills of the Miwok 100k. The thick morning fog did not allow much of a view, but the sun was starting to rise and gave a blue haze to brighten up the darkness. We heard bagpipes, emanating from somewhere in the fog, on top of this 1500 ft hill – surreal! Conversation wth a few runners confirmed we weren’t hallucinating – 3 miles into a 62 mile run is much too early to be hallucinating….

I ran Miwok last year, finishing in a time of 16:00:54. I missed qualifying for Western States by less than 1 minute, and was determined to improve on my crappy time. And lets face it, with fantastic, panoramic views of the Marin Headlands, Golden Gate Bridge, Pacific Ocean, redwood forests, big climbs and big descents, this race is not a bad choice to run again. With lots of work and other stress lately, it would be nice to escape to run in the beautiful mountains all day long. The last year, I got faster with lots of mile repeats and speed work. Practically PR’d at every distance, so I was optimistic I would be able to improve on my time this year. My main concern with training was not getting in any good long, hilly training runs. With a vertical of 12,000 ft gain/loss, I needed some hilly long runs, but obligations at work prevented me from getting any long runs/races in the hill country leading up to Miwok this year. I’d have to rely on my voluminous strength training, mile repeats, and oh yeah, those ridiculous 30 ft Spott’s Park hill workouts.

This year I invited two friends, pacer and crew Chris and Jamie to help me. I figured I wouldn’t need that much help, but any help could make a difference in a race this long and challenging – and it turns out that was true. Jamie has done enough of these things that I knew I would be in good hands, and Chris is a strong runner and would be easy going enough to handle me the last 13 miles, no matter how bad I might be. I met one of my Houston friends, Bill, at the start line, outside the community center at Stinson Beach. I was ridiculously anxious, and just ready to start the damn run. The RD said go (I think) and we marched up towards the start. I was situated probably in the front third or so this year, and we began the run up the famous Dipsea trail.

Not even a quarter mile in, I twist my ankle. $*&! I can’t get any luck. At least it doesn’t hurt too bad, but the worry clouds my mind for quite a while – the thought of running 62 miles with it hurting is almost too much to bear. Up the steps of the hill, we keep going, up and up. Up a switchback, I look over my shoulder and see a few hundred lamps lighting the trail below me, a fantastic view where I realize I must be in the front half. A few false summits, and eventually we reach the top with bagpipes playing somewhere in the fog as the sun first begins to rise – absolutely surreal. I know once we reached Cardiac, it’s a long downhill and down, down, down, we go.

I’m timid with my ankle, so I hold back. Other runners fly past me, taking advantage of gravity and the wide trail to open up their pace. Its still a bit dark, and I’m unsure of my footing, so I don’t want to hurt my ankle any more. We keep going down and down, and I forget how awesome it is to run downhill this long but my quads are sore down the first climb – not a good sign! A wild turkey is somewhere, and it gobbles. A woman runner nearby laughs out loud, seemingly to respond to it. The turkey answers back, and the woman laughs again. This brings a smile to my face, and eventually we reach the bottom of the hill and to the flat part to approach Muir Beach, and I lock into a solid pace on the singletrack. I keep up a good pace into Muir Beach, a quick stop, and turn around back towards Tennessee Valley. I feel strong, running 9 minute miles and trying to get in as much running before the next climb.

We reach climb # 2, and up we go. My ankle is sore on the uphill, but the pain isn’t too bad. I’m still keeping a good pace. Passing a person or two, and falling behind others, but moving well. This climb goes on and on, and just as I forget how awesome long downhills are…. I forget how long it takes to climb these hills. I look over my left shoulder at the valley, half way up the hill, and it’s worth it. We crest this hill, and time to fly back down. More gorgeous views of the lush greenery and valley below, and I can almost make out the aid station a mile or so, and a thousand feet down, below me. I look at my watch and see it’s 7:45, and my crew said they’d be there by 8. Damn, I hope they’re there.

I finish the descent, cross the road, and here my name. Yes, they’re here! (Little did I know until later that I think they made it there about 1 minute before I arrived!) I let them know how I’m doing and a random volunteer asks me if I want to tape my ankle. I pause to consider this suggestion – haven’t done this before and you’re not supposed to try anything new on race day – sure, that’s probably a good idea. Jamie and this guy help tape my ankle, while I watch, hoping I didn’t get into any Poison Oak and infect them. I get refueled, taped up, and ready to take on the next hill.

I bid my goodbyes and head up the Marincello trail, a good climb, number 3 of the day, about 13 miles in. More awesome views, Sausalito to the left, and the bay too. We crest the hill, a few rollers, and I’m feeling good – I think the tape worked! It rolls on and on, and the views of the Headlands are stunning and the views never get old. The Bridge View Aid station is next, which means the Golden Gate Bridge is near. We cross a saddle on a hill, and it’s right in front of you, with an awesome view of the bridge, bay, and San Francisco. I admire it for a second, and continue on to the Aid Station. I look at my hands, and my fingers look a little puffy – something must be wrong with my electrolytes, but otherwise I feel fine…..

I get some watermelon, coke, chips, PB&J, and try to get out of the busy aid station and down the hill. The miles roll on and on, and onto the next climb. I remember this one being long from last year, and it still is. There’s really two climbs in this one, disguised as one, and it takes what seems like forever to climb. But the weather is perfect – the wind is blowing and I feel cold. I look at my arms and see it’s red – surely not from the sun as it’s completely foggy, is it really that windy? This climb this year, I’m surrounded by other runners. I’m running strong and it’s nice to actually be near people. Last year I was so slow in the first half, and much more alone. It gives me confidence I’m running this much better, surrounded by other folks.

I make some exasperated sound near the top of this hill and a runner nearby seems relieved he isn’t the only one who’s having a hard time. They don’t seem to be doing that bad because they’re joking around and fly past me up the trail. I look to the right and a thousand feet below, but two miles ahead on the course, I see the next aid station parking lot, back at Tennessee Valley, right below me – that’s messed up!! We finish the climb, and start running back downhill on some great single track.

I meet my crew again and tell them I want them to meet me at the next one, Muir Beach. They say I’m looking good. I know any crew worth their salt has lying in their repertoire – I wonder if they are employing it here already or not. I’m a half hour ahead of my pace charts and feeling good, but I know this is not my normal Saturday run!

The next stretch to Muir Beach goes slower than expected. The descents are more technical than I remember, and I’m so conservative with my bad ankle, and some turns are twisty and tweak my ankle. Just don’t screw anything up and you might be able to finish this thing. This section is short, but seems to drag on, and finally back to another downhill to Muir Beach aid station again. Walking in, a volunteer walks directly to me before I reach the table and tells me “Hi, I just wanted to tell you your hair looks awesome!” Don’t think I’ve ever heard that before, so I must not be looking too bad.  I find Jamie and Chris, who also tell me I look good, now 30 miles into the run.  They take a picture of me and I take off out of there with an extra snack before the next big climb. I won’t see them again for probably 4 more hours or so until mile 49 at the Randall Aid station. I’m about 30 miles in, and it’s taken me 6 hrs 40 min, I’m over an hour ahead of my pace last year and starting to feel pretty good about this whole thing. I see the guy who taped my ankle and tell him it helped a lot! I was fortunate that guy was there.

The next section retraces our steps back up the Dipsea, and I know that climb sucks, so I need to run everything right up to it. The fog has cleared for now, and I look up to my left and see a huge mountain with a powerline cutout up to the top, thinking that might be our route – that’s messed up! Well, I don’t think it’s ours, but I bet ours is similar…. I run at a solid pace, feels like I’m running 9 min miles, 30+ miles into this race. I say nothing, but there’s two guys behind me, keeping up with this earnest pace. We pass a few folks, running strong on this singletrack, cross the road, and back up the famous Dipsea. We talk and thank each other for the pace and ‘company.’ Now the three of us start conversation, my first real one with any other runners today. The company up the Dipsea trail is great to help comfort the huge climb. This would be climb number 6, and most of the climbing is done after this one. I think of all the runners who’ve crossed this historic trail, in the 100 + year history of the Dipsea race and what a treat the views are at the top…… but I really just want to get to the top of the hill to the aid station and get some coke.
A clearing in the trees, and there’s the aid station up there! Ah, nothing like it. I tell them that climb was hard, and they concur, but tell me 75% of the climbing is done with for the race. I refuel again, no bananas, but still have plenty of food. I hear another turkey, and it walks up to the aid station. Time to get out of here. Now just some ‘flat’ running to Bolinas at mile ~42. It starts to get warm in this section, and it’s kind of technical in this wooded area. Lots of hikers out now – some wishing you good luck! And others who don’t want to get out of the way. The confidence with my ankle is low on these technical spots, and it takes me a while to navigate some of them, much longer than it should. I’m getting warm and starting to cramp, how can it be hot when I was just so cold? I keep on drinking, downing salt pills, trying to counteract. Eventually the trees end and it’s on to the dreaded Coastal Trail. Gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean below, but the trail only is 6-8” wide in some spots, and canted to the side, which makes running difficult. It’s been cool/cold all day, but now I feel cooked! I think I’m slow, but now I still see folks just ahead of me, and no one is passing me, so everyone else must be feeling the same.

At this point the leaders are coming back the same route, so I have to step by to let them pass – more time to slow but I don’t mind that much. Eventually the Coastal Trail ends, and now some lovely single track and forested areas up to Bolinas. The temperature feels like it drops 20 degrees as the rolling hills continue on. I work through a low patch, low on calories I think, and quickly recover – can’t waste any time! I start to worry over the times – I’ve run too well the first half of this race, and it would really suck for it to unravel here. I put in a lot of training, and got 2 friends to come out here, it would be a shame not to finish. I was 30 min ahead of my pace charts, but now the time has evaporated and I try do math and calculate I’m going to be cutting it close, here on out. I reach Bolinas, refuel, and head out. I need to get back to this aid station (~ 13 miles) in 3 hours to make the cutoff. Sounds easy, right? This section isn’t bad at all, with huge redwood trees surrounding a wide trail, and gently rolling hills. I run all the flat and downhills, and hike the uphills, until the big descent that I know is coming.

The penultimate descent of the races comes and I run it, and hard! Don’t need to hold anything back on this downhill. I fly past folks down the 1.5 mile long downhill, and my quads are burning — it feels like I’m running 8 minute miles down the mountain. I finally see my friend Bill again, not more than 5 minutes from the bottom of the hill – I was worried since I hadn’t seen him since mile 2 and should have seen him on this out and back (he went on to finish an hour ahead of me…) I get to see my friends again, and we are reunited at mile 49, ~11.5 hours into the race for me, and I wonder in my mind what they spent the whole day doing while I was running. I take a break for a few, bid Jamie goodbye, and Chris and I are off – it will be nice to have some company the last few hours of this race.

We have an hour and 50 minutes to make it 6.5 miles back up the hill. This last hill, major climb #7 of the race, isn’t that steep, but it sure is steeper 50 miles in to a run! I make good hiking pace, passing a few folks, and manage very short bits of running uphill. We reach the top, and there’s not any time to waste. We make it to Bolinas, less than 10 minutes ahead of the A/S cutoff! The volunteer kicks me out of there, almost physically pushing me out of the aid station and tells me to get going – I just want some food! We have 2 hours and 8 minutes to go less than 7 miles – that too, sounds easy, right?

We roll on, and Chris tells me I’m ‘looking good’. More gorgeous views back to the Coastal Trail, but the fog is rolling in, obstructing the view of the ocean. I become reunited with the Coastal Trail, where Chris comments ‘this trail isn’t very wide’ – understatement of the century! I tell him sorry if you slide down the mountain, I’m not stopping for you! I can run some parts here well, but others not. But we keep moving on and on, what I feels like is strong but surely is slow. Soon a quick switchback which means we’re on the Matt Davis trail, and the final descent to the finish ~1800 ft below.

Down we go, and I open up the pace on the runnable parts. That soon ends with the switchbacks, which are punctuated with stairs, big ones, ones that my tired and sore quads just can’t move very quickly on. I step down the stairs, and then it’s flat, and I run. This sequence continues on and on for what seems like a dozen or so switchbacks, and there’s lots of folks passing me who aren’t held back by this technical trail like I am – all I can think is what an abomination I am descending the stairs! We hear voices, folks at the finish line hollering, but we are still 1000 ft up on this hill. Eventually the steps thankfully disappear and the switchbacks get shorter and shorter, and I see a car just below through the trees. Just a little bit further down, the trail unwinds to a straight trajectory. The footbridge! People are here, cheering volunteers, finish line cones….I cross the finish line 7 minutes before the cutoff of the 62 mile race and get my hard earned finishers award from RD Tia Bodington. Jamie asks me if I want a coke or need anything – I just want to sit down….!

2014 Review

Most miles in a year (1839). Most consistent — not really any down times due to injuries, which is the first in a few years. PRs for the 50k, 5k, 10k, half marathon. So, it was a pretty good year running wise. Got to run races in 2 states other than Texas which was nice, as well.

November saw my first ever 200+ mile (202) month, followed up with 186 for December, which would probably mean I’d be in good shape for Bandera 100k, which is only a few days away. Hopefully the weather will be good, but at least I’ve put in some good training. After Bandera, my training will focus on going back to Miwok again and trying to run it faster. At least I know what I’m getting myself into, and what areas to focus on better this time around for Miwok.

Tommyknocker 50k Race Report

I ran the Tommyknocker 50k in Woodland Park, CO over the weekend. It was my first mountain race, and as a person who lives at sea level, it was pretty epic to finish so I thought a report would be appropriate.

The race started at ~7800 ft and would top out just over 9100 ft, with ~4000 ft of elevation change. I estimate 80% of the race was above 8500 ft.  Although a larger elevation change than most 50k’s I run, I wasn’t worried about the elevation change but rather the altitude since I’ve never run that high.I normally get anxious, but I was actually really worried about this race, probably more so than any other race I’d run. Even on Friday I briefly thought about backing out of the trip. At least it would be scenic, with views of forested mountains and Pike’s Peak in the distance and a sweet relief from the summertime temperatures of Houston with a starting temperature around 50 degrees.

In the race briefing/race document, we were told we needed to wear orange, so we could stand out in the event of any bow hunters on the trail. Additionally, we were warned of potential wildlife on the trail: snakes, beavers, mountain lions, moose, elk, maybe bears. In other words, just like a normal Saturday run in Houston. Thankfully there were no bear attacks and I didn’t get shot with a bow in my @$$.

It was a ‘low key’ start, with the RD throwing a pick axe against a rock to signal the start, and the ~40 of us starting were off. It was a very slight hill, mostly flat,  so ‘flat’ that I felt like running since it was the beginning of the race. What I should be able to run at an easy 9 min pace at sea level, was taxing to run at 12-13 min pace up here, whoa. That didn’t last too long before the grade increased to where it would be foolish for me to run, and it was full on hiking mode. The terrain was nice jeep/ATV road with crushed granite (the whole course was very non-technical) and up the mountain we went. This area was mostly shaded, which made a big difference compared to being exposed in later portions of the course, but I was still sweating like crazy. I thought the lower humidity would mean less but here on this first climb my shirt was already soaked. I definitely could feel the effect of the altitude on my breathing, but after the climb topped out, I felt much better.

The first climb topped out at 8500 ft and we were treated with the first view of Pike’s Peak to the left on a beautiful partly-cloudy morning. That view alone was practically worth the run. More gently rolling hills and soon we were at the first aid station and I didn’t feel too bad. Got a few snacks and headed off on the next section. Whoops, me and another runner Jeff briefly went the wrong direction and got turned around by the volunteers.

The next section dropped down to below 8100 ft, and the downhill was great. Beautiful ATV/double track trails with forests, brooks, trees, everywhere. I felt really good this section and it was no coincidence since the altitude was lower (and wouldn’t get down this low until the very end of the race). We kept hiking and back up the mountains we went. It was probably only a ~6% grade or so, but was way too steep for me to run, especially up this high. Still, I felt good going uphill, and we continued on through the forests until we saw the next aid station in the distance, and another clearing with another fantastic view of Pike’s Peak up at 8800 ft now. This aid station had beautiful, unforgettable panoramic views, and I felt jealous of the volunteers there to enjoy it all day long. I grabbed more chips and PB&J, coke and then headed back on down the trail.

The next section was 5 miles long and rose to over 9100 feet and was probably the toughest stretch for me. None of the climbs were very big, but I just couldn’t move very fast. I could run, and by ‘run’ I mean like a 12-13 min/mile jog, for only a minute or two, before it was just too taxing and feeling light headed. Legs felt like they weighed 200 lbs and my breathing couldn’t recover. On the positive side, I felt like my hiking speed was pretty good, and I didn’t feel nearly as wasted when I was hiking. It wasn’t like I was moving that much faster when I was running anyway, lol. I also started feeling really low energy and more light headed so I didn’t want to push the pace too much. I was worried that it was due to the altitude and I didn’t want any kind of disaster up here. However, it was very mentally challenging to think if it was due to the altitude and I feel like this the rest of the day, it’s going to be real hard for me to finish and be an extremely long day. Anyway, I staggered on into the next aid station at mile 13 feeling pretty awful. I told them I didn’t feel great, and worked on getting refueled with 2 shots of ginger ale, 1 shot of coke, PB&J sandwich, several hand fulls of chips, and half a homemade cookie. The cookie seemed real good so I took an extra and stuck it in a Ziploc inside my camelbak to enjoy later in the race. I also was advised to drink ALOT more water up here, so at this point I picked up a handheld from my drop bag, so now I was carrying almost 100 oz of water for the rest of the race. The next aid station was 8 miles away, and the one after that as well, so those would be some real long stretches.

I felt a bit better heading out of that A/S, and continued on with my jog/walk pattern, especially trying to run all the little downhills. Miles 13-21 were net downhill, before a sharp downhill and steep uphill. I started to feel better, and my energy level recovered. I must have been in a big calorie deficit but felt like I was eating more than enough. Guess I need more up this high. With alot of time up here alone to think, it reminded me a lot of how these ultras are a lot like life. Lots of ups and downs, and sometimes things really really suck, but you just have to keep moving on and eventually things will improve. You meet people along the way and need help from others to finish…

The miles rolled on and then I ran into probably a dozen runners headed at me coming up the trail, saying that was the wrong way. I saw the sign 50 yards back, but apparently a disgruntled homeowner had vandalized the course markings, with some runners running up to 4 miles extra and supposedly a few of them even dropping. I’m really glad I didn’t go extra because this is more than enough for this flatlander…. I guess sometimes it pays to be slow because it didn’t add any significant distance for me. We found the right trail, and then headed down. Yes, I love the downhills. Down, down we went, finally a nice steep one to really speed up. These guys were much faster with me, but I could actually keep up with some of them on the downs. Then we bottomed out and headed right back up a steep incline, where I then set back into my own flatlander uphill hiking pace. This climb was the steepest one of the day, but I felt like I still had a good pace. At this point, I didn’t have any altitude headache, and actually felt well overall. It was still really hard, though.

The climb mercifully ended and we got to the mile 21 aid station. I was pretty spent, but not too bad all things considered. Gorged myself on coke, half a PB&J sandwich, stuck the other half in my ziplock, more ginerale, coke, handfulls of chips, refilled my camelbak and handheld, and then it was time to go. Was a nice break, and then we got a lovely downhill to run. It seemed like it was a net uphill this far so it was nice to finally make up some of the ascent.

The descent continued with some awesome switchbacks, and I came upon another runner who seemed to be struggling a bit. He said he had some IT band problem, so I hung with him for a minute, before I noticed the temperature started to drop. Then a pellet fell on the ground, and another, and then it was full on hailing, with them landing on my head, body, brim of my visor, everywhere. I attempted, uselessly, to find shelter under a tree as I retrieved my rain jacket from my pack and put it on. Dang, this is pretty crazy.  If this wasn’t good enough motivation to keep you running, I don’t know what is. This guy did ’14’ers every weekend’ so his thought was this wouldn’t last long. This kind of craziness doesn’t happen in Houston, but I couldn’t really afford to worry about it too much. The hail turned to light rain, and down the switchbacks we went. The hail/rainstorm indeed ended soon, maybe after 15-20 minutes; I guess the weather in Colorado changes quickly.  Eventually he fell back and I came on another guy. We bottomed out and were in this absolutely stunning stretch between the hills/mountains, surrounded by beautiful green trees and rocks on the mountains everywhere. The whole course was so breathtaking.

 

Back to the running, I was actually feeling pretty good here. That changed as we got to the steepest climb, the last big one. The worst of it was only like 300 feet or so, but we were up at like 8800 – 9000 ft. I kept up with this guy the first 100 feet, then I needed a break to take my jacket off as the rain had already stopped, which gave me a good opportunity for a breather. Got to the top of that pitch, and felt i felt totally gassed as my heart-rate was over 180 or 190, damn my heart is beating like crazy!! I decided I shouldn’t push it anymore so I was walking probably like a 20 min pace to recover, but my heart rate didn’t seem to drop very quickly. No oxygen up here!

These miles rolled on with more gently rolling hills that were just steep enough to think you could run them. On and on it went, with few runners passing by. The rain had stopped, but it was thundering all around, and I was a bit worried being up here in the mountains, it all seemed so crazy. I knew it was downhill to the next aid station, so that was a bit of relief; however, the temperature dropped again and it started raining and haling again so I had to get my jacket out again. This time the rain was much heavier and I got pretty cold. I just hoped it wouldn’t last too long because I was getting real cold and not moving that fast up here (still around 8800 ft), and getting too cold would be real hard to recover from. With the heavy rain, I decided it would be wise to put my iphone in a ziploc. This ziploc was the one previously occupied by the PB&J, so now my phone was coated in that. Oh well, a first-world problem I can deal with later, it’s probably safer than getting soaked. It was such a surreal feeling, way up here in the mountains, in the pouring rain, somehow making my way along this race.

The rain storm let up, and eventually I descended to the last aid station to cheering volunteers, but I felt pretty wasted at this point (understatement of the century), 31 miles into the race. I felt pretty calorie-deficient and knew I needed to sit down, so I did, and the wonderful volunteers helped me refuel once again. I was sick of eating all the dang gel things, so I had 3 cups of chicken broth, 1 with noodles, a few cups of coke, and more and more chips, maybe a PB&J too. I can never have too many chips or coke in an ultra, lol.  They had moonshine at this aid station, which seemed like a real great idea the day before. I still should have had one, but felt way too off to experiment with just 3.5 miles to go.

After a solid 10 minute break, I left the final aid station and knew the last section wasn’t that bad (this was the same route back as the first 3.5 miles). A few little gently rolling hills up, then all downhill the last ~ 2 miles. Took it easy up, got my last glimpse of Pike’s Peak, and then ran pretty much all the way down the hill at a real good pace. Finished in 9:06. A normal 50k here in TX takes me 6 – 6.5 hrs. This was in the mountains, and actually 3 miles longer (garmin showed 34 miles).

The RD and other finishers/volunteers clapped and handed me my finisher award. I told him it was ‘nothing like running in Houston’ and that ‘back home, we have 70 foot bridge we run.’ That generated a lot of laughter, but I think most were impressed I was able to finish that beast living down at sea level with no hills. It was very mentally challenging to finish this race (definitely one of the toughest for me ever), the altitude up that high really slows you down. I learned I can’t really run above 8800 ft. Below that, it felt almost instantly better, but above it, I couldn’t run any flat sections longer than 1-2 min. Overall, a great experience for my first mountain race and glad I didn’t generate any embarrassing carnage. If I do another one, I definitely don’t want to do one that has any prolonged sections above that high because it is just too hard to move. Otherwise, I’d need to get there early to acclimate to the altitude.

The next day, went sightseeing and pubcrawling in Golden, CO with friends. I got carded every place we went, which doesn’t seem to happen down here. Anyway, a nice weekend running/walking in the mountains, sightseeing, and drinking mircobrews.

Training and Racing Lately….

Not much blog activity from me lately…. I sprained my ankle during the furlough in October. It was kind of nagging at first, but enough to be annoying and register as ‘not normal.’  Had to bow out of running Cactus Rose, and then after weeks of not improving, finally went to see a chiropractor.  That helped some, but not playing volleyball seems to be the main culprit. December went on and finally saw some improvement, and then in surprising luck, I got into the Miwok 100k via the lottery. Crap, now I have to heal up and train for this beast.

 

I ran 171 miles in January, and felt pretty solid. No ankle issues. February came around, and I ran the piney woods 50k, as a first ‘tune up’ for training. Really really flat (don’t really have a desire to run that much flat miles again…..), but nice weather although the trails were a bit choppy from some rain. Ran a 50k PR there, but rolled my ankle which was sore for a good week or so, which was a bit troubling at the time.  Followed January up with 118 miles in February, with the goal of running the Nueces 50k. Nueces is probably the hilliest course I can train on to prepare for Miwok, so seemed mandatory, even though I would be driving all the way out there solo.

Nueces started off nice and cool (reportedly in the 30’s)… but that changed pretty quickly. The course is 2 50k loops, lots of loose rock and some nice climbs.  I also have to say it was quite nice that my bed was about 50 feet from the start line… a lot less stress in the morning with extra time to spare.  First lap I felt pretty strong, and rolled in to the hallway around 3 hrs, I could feel the warmth increasing. Had I known the temperature was going to top out near 90 degrees, I would have probably altered my electrolyte intake….

Second lap started off a bit slow, but then I was rolling. I passed a handful of runners the first 5 miles or so, and was cruising, before the heat came on. Felt like I was baking out there…. So I slowed down to keep my HR under control. Spent quite a few minutes at the aid stations just dumping cold water on my head… dang it was hot!! As slow as I was moving the first few miles after the heat bonk, no one was passing me. So I figured everyone must having a tough time. Eventually folks did pass me as I spent a few minutes recovering at the aid stations, and I joined up with a couple other folks to hike it out. Any time goals were pretty much gone by this point, but I was just here for a training run anyway. This next stretch has the mile long rocky hill, followed my a nice downhill to the last short section,  easy. Unfortunately I ran out of water in this 4-5 miles stretch, really wish I would have had an extra, and I had no plans to push it too hard to make anything really bad, so I just hiked it out. I had tweaked my ankle a couple times during the race, so I was taking the downhills rather gingerly to avoid making that situation any worse as well. Finished just above 7 hrs, and was glad to be done. Honestly felt like the hardest 50k I’d run given the course and weather conditions. But I got it done, showered, and then had the LONG drive back home on the same day… If it weren’t for visiting my family, I would have stopped the 5  drive a few hours earlier…

 

Legs were pretty sore the first few days after Nueces… I decided I would give volleyball a shot, since my ankle was feeling good (hadn’t played at all since December). Bad idea! Was really sore afterwards, and it has lingered several days. It was more sore after that than after running 30 miles in the hill country — what gives? Anyway, I’ve been doing a lot of massage and stretching, so hopefully it goes away like in December, just very frustrating to deal with. Next on the radar is a possible training run to Bandera, followed by also running the Possum Kingdom 55k, which is 3 weeks out from Miwok and gives me a nice 3 week taper. Just have to work in a lot of weight training on the legs, Kemah bridge repeats, and also a little treadmill incline hiking. Will it be enough to finish Miwok? Not so sure! But I hope so… really wish Houston had bigger hills….. After Miwok I will definitely take it easy during the summer, and focus on some strength training and sticking to short distance training. Just get me to the Miwok start line healthy !

“The Talk” / It’s not a fungus.

As ultrarunners or endurance athletes, we’ve all had this kind of conversation before.  This one for me was at the doctor’s office a little while ago, and was funny on a couple levels.

 

“Your toenails look like they have a fungus, that must really hurt.”

“It’s not a fungus. I run alot, and that is what happens.”

“Oh, do you run short distances, or long distances?”
“Long distances.”
“Like marathons?”

“Yeah… sort of.”
“What do you mean ‘sort of’?”
“So, last week, I ran a 50 mile race in California.”
“Fifty?? Five-zero?”
“Yep.”
“I didn’t know the human body was capable of such a thing…”

Just do It

This past weekend was another large training volume for me, training for bandera 100k.  My goal was to get in 40 miles between Saturday and Sunday. And wouldn’t you know it, but the weather here was not exactly ideal.  My understanding is the seasonal average high is around 68 degrees F — Saturday it was probably a high near 85 and today it topped out at 79 when I got to my car (overcast skies)– wasn’t summer already over?  The humidity was pretty bad in the early morning hours too.  Nevertheless, I got in 24 miles on Saturday and followed it up with 17 more today.  Nothing very fast, and nothing screaming at me too bad (although my left quad muscles I can tell now are not as strong as the right since they seem to be the muscle group that gets sore first… have to watch that) but my quads and body were ready to be done after the run today.

 

Coming around the finish today at Seabrook, I only had a quarter mile or so to go, and almost stopped and walked it in (it doesn’t help when you can see your car…).  But I told myself “just f**ing do it”.  I wasn’t hurting that bad, and stopping to walk isn’t going to help anyway, so just effing do it, and finish the run.  I did, and was glad to be done.  Very glad it wasn’t any hotter as it would have been quite hard to get in the necessary miles for Bandera… we’ll see how my body feels but has been generally feeling pretty good since Cactus Rose.  Foam rolling for 5-10 minutes after I showered helped and I’ll have to have another session tonight.  I also plan to get in another big week 2 weeks from now, maybe doing the end of the world marathon in 2 weeks… we’ll see how I recover from this.

Huntsville Training Run, 9/23

Went out for a long training run with some other folks from HTREx.  Met around 7 at the Nature center with probably a dozen or so other runners.  The goal was to get in 30 miles.   The route was running the orange/chinquapin trail (~7 miles long).  We took off a bit after 7, when the temperature was nice, probably around 70 degrees — it would later warm up to probably about 93 (and this was NOT a “nice” 93).

 

First lap, was cruising pretty comfortably.  I started running at a good effort… but was unaware that everyone else that came up was treating it as a race?  I guess they *probably* did not intend to run 30 miles so I knew to keep my pace at a comfortable range.  Well the first lap clicked by, and I was feeling good.  Real quick stop, then turned around and ran the 2nd one in the opposite direction (make it a little less boring….).  The second lap also felt pretty good, but could tell it was starting to warm up just a tad.  Took a relatively short break at the cars (but longer than the 2 min break after lap 1) and headed back out for lap 3.

 

Now it was getting warm.  Not stupid warm (or hot), but just enough to slow you down.  The guy I was running with only wanted 16 miles, so I was pretty much solo at this point.  There were two other runners out there for a “long” run, but they were mostly just a few mintues ahead — we played leap frog pretty much the whole day (until the last lap…).  The third lap wasn’t too bad, but the temperature was rising — almost felt like exponentially.  I was doing pretty well with nutrition and such, but it was just dang hot and humid, and now I’ve covered 20 miles in about 4 hours total elapsed time.  I actually felt pretty happy with my time, all things considered.  But I walked alot of the last mile in, since I knew IF I wanted to continue, I would need to conserve a little energy.

 

I took a LONG (~18 min) break between laps 3/4, to make sure I was REALLY sure I wanted to continue.  I had, after all, gotten in a solid 21 miles, and everyone else, except for two, were dropping out, so it definitely makes it easier.  But I thought I could definitely tough out one last 7 mi loop — cactus rose is going to be hard in it’s own way, so I think I should just put my big boy pants on and at least hike 7 miles.  During this break, I also doused myself with some ice water, probably made some sounds the bikers next to me were a little offended/surprised by.

 

Anyway, the 4th loop started out OK at the beginning.  I ran a decent amount of the first mile or so, but my heart rate was just getting too high from the heat.  Not any major cramping or stomach issues, and my legs felt OK, but just the heat.  So I intermixed alot of walking/jogging from here on out.  After about mile 25, my legs started to fatigue.  Probably could have ran more, but I didn’t see much value, since it was so hot, to put myself in any danger out here by myself on the trail.

 

Anyway, I hiked alot of the last 5 miles to give me a 28 mile training run, finishing in 6:17.  Not a fantastic time, but I was pretty happy considering how much it heated up the last few hours.  My legs felt pretty strong, so I was satisfied, maybe my training has been paying off.  The past 6 weeks my training has been such:  Mondays, squats.  Tuesdays, hill training on treadmill.  Wednesdays, spin class.  Thursday, usually a tempo run.  Fri, usually rest.  Sat, usually a trail run.  Sun, when not resting, running repeats of kemah bridge.  Additionally I’ve been doing some core workouts several times a weeks.  I definitely think my legs were stronger running huntstville — not tremendous hills there obviously but I didn’t even really walk a huge amount the first3-4 hours, mostly wasn’t done out of necessity per se, rather just the fact I was going to be out there so long.  I know my legs will be pretty trashed at cactus rose but I think I’m happy with my training thus far — hopefully the weather finally cools off though.

 

Long digression, but I was very happy to be done, once it started to heat up and I felt cooked.  Downed an ice cold gatorade, protein shake, and nibbled on some other things before devouring half a bag of salt and vinegar potato chips on the way back home (made it back to watch the football game which fortuitously started at 3:30p).  Not a bad day….