Friday, November 14, 2014

Race: Grindstone 100 Miler (10/04/14)

I suffered but I didn't suffer enough. 

242 starters, 189 finishers, 53 DNF, 16 DNS, 78% completion rate.

#162, seconds into the race

Training & Arrival:
I have been training well this year with only minor setbacks being due to work & non-running life schedules which of course trump ultra training. I’ve continued to utilize the same 8 month training cycle that I have used successfully for the last couple 100 milers. It has a strong base building phase, distance, speed & hill work with a lot of cross training and quality specific workouts. 

I pushed a little too much without enough recovery prior to Grindstone, truly feeling like I had a slight case of mono. Anyone running with me 4-5 weeks prior to Grindstone heard me complain how tired I was. I would take a day off, maybe 2 with some activity, but not enough. Ahhh....the mental struggle of the Type A personality.

I told my training buddy Dave about 2mi into the Punxatawney 50k that I was pretty sure I had mono, for which he harassed me for....then I proceeded to run the slowest 50k I have run in 5 or 6 years.

Dave was slated to crew / pace me at Grindstone but unable to make the schedule work, I was going to be on my own….I had wanted to experience that on a hard course so looked like I was bound to get it. Pam Rickard who lives near the course offered to pace me so I had her to help support. An Outrun teammate, Crystal had asked about who was crewing for me and when I mentioned that I was going at it solo, she offered to come out and pair up with Pam to crew for me. It’s a funny sport, ultramarathons, people spend a lot of time helping others complete events that take many hours to complete. I’ve said it before, it’s one of the only sports I am aware of that this exists in. I felt blessed. 

Grindstone was a 7hr drive from Ohio and a 6pm start in the rural & very hilly Swoope, Virginia. The course boasts 23,000 climbing and 23,000 decent due to the out & back 100mi distance. I was looking for a tough run, feeling pretty fit and shooting for 24-26 hours on this 38 hour cutoff, Dr. Horton course.

We made it to the race start about 3pm, so there was time to make it to packet pickup, meet Clark Zealand, Dr.Horton, meetup with Pam, setup camp, take in some more calories, & rest until race start. The weather was pleasant in the 50-60’s with rain on the forecast.

Mtn hardwear coolrunner shorts 
MHW coolrunner shirt,
Ultimate Direction AK Vest,
Hoka Mafate Speed 3,
CEP socks, 

Black Diamond Revolt headlamp, & handheld light, 
MHW Ghost Whisperer Jacket

I had planned to eat my Hammer Perpeteum and do 1 Hammer bar or Bearded Brothers bar every hour. I kept my salt stick pills about 1-2 every hour and nuun energy for the late hours when I needed caffeine in my body. Sport Leggs in the latter 1/2 of the well as some Red Bull. 

The Race:
Apparently, they don’t believe in switchbacks in Virginia. We had a couple 3,000+ foot climbs that really just went up the mountain. I was pushing too hard WAY too early and it came crashing down at about mile 18 when I started to fight nausea from too much GI stress. I kept forcing food when I should have just relied on the perpeteum. I was trying to front load the calories and it was just too much. My pace dropped dishearteningly to a 20min mile due to heaving on the trail, the inability to run due to nausea, and just pure discomfort. I couldn’t believe it. I hadn't even made it to the first crew access at mile 22 and I was in a dark place already.

I made it finally to mile 22 where I stayed for a loooong time. Even with 4miles at a terrible pace, I was dead on track for 24 hours but my pace was continuing to decline. My crew Crystal got me out with fresh gear & a bag of pretzels which I managed 1 bite of over the next 8 miles. She later called that aid station "zero dark thirty" was a bad time and I was honestly worried that I felt that bad that early. 80miles in, okay....not 22.

I struggled for a while longer with the nausea & occasional heaving before I started to come around (~mile 30), by then I had dropped 60 places in the race and the climbing was really taking it’s toll on my pace. I met Crystal again at 37 but was still struggling, she got me all set with food, gear, etc... the miles from 37 to 43 were downright terrible, slow, uphill, terrible, I have never walked so slow, my headlamp died, my handheld died and I was barely moving along. I finally made it to Little Bald Knob at 45 and started to gain momentum after a hearty breakfast at the Aid station. 

By 46-7 I was the food was setting in and I was starting to come to life. Morning had come and I was only a few miles from getting to Pam for pacing. I ran into Ash Walsh who I've only known through social media.

We ran a mile or so together before I really started moving along. I was eating and running really well, hovering around 9:30min/miles and bombing on the downhills. I picked up Pam at 49, & reloaded some nutrition from Crystal and off we went. It was around mile 60 where I was really feeling my Wheaties and was starting to race. Pam was a bit hesitant on the technical downhill back to mile 66 so we agreed to have her meet up with me at mile 80 to finish pacing.

From 66 to 72 it was a lot of long climbing, no switchbacks, windy and beautiful. Although the effort was high, the pace was slow and I just settled into a hard fast speed hike with occasional running. The temps were begging to drop and the winds on the ridges were really consistent. Crystal & Pam had hunted the area for some calories for me, knowing that I was in need of more and they had found some pizza at a not-so nearby store. I changed jackets, gloves, devoured the pizza, go re-fueled and off we went. I can't thank them enough. I felt really good but it was heartbreaking to be so far off pace.
Pam & I cruised along to 88 where Crystal met us again, got us in and out, then off to mile 97. I recall telling Pam that I didn't feel like I had 90+ miles in my legs. I wasn't bragging, I felt like I hadn't pushed enough. 
The internal struggle going on was that I felt like I hadn't given the race enough, knowing that I should push it but wasn't. I was pretty disappointed in myself but at this stage I was no where near the sub 24 goal and was well within the cutoff times. I was having a hard time letting my mind enjoy the process as I knew that I was so far behind. At some point I finally accepted it. Pam was a pleasure to talk with and was really helping me to push the pace, we were cruising along on the technical trails. At some point Pam burst out "do these blessed rocks EVER end?!" I laughed that this was with just a couple miles to go and they really were never ending.
The last couple miles were elusive, I had passed about 72 of the 80 people that had passed me in my darker miles and I couldn't find the path that led us through the trees across the lake. For the first time in dozens of miles, someone was coming in behind me and I kicked it in for some random 8:30min/mi for the last bit. Pam & Crystal were cheering me in and it was rather surreal to be finished. I have never "run" that long in my life. 29hrs 34min

Pam (pacer) & Crystal (crew)!

Peg Leg at the start. 

Mile 3 or so....long before the pain. 

Blurry finish...102miles complete 29:34
I will say that the nice thing about a Friday 6pm start is that I went to sleep Saturday at about midnight and was up at 7am driving back home. I made it in time to hang with the wife & kids, make some dinner and catch up on what I missed over the weekend. Back to work Monday morning....

I'm writing this about 5 weeks after the event. I slept well the week after, no soreness, minimal foot swelling, was running and doing cross-fit about 2 days after the event.I would love to go back and give that race a hell of a lot more. I am proud to have finished a sub 30 at a Dr.Horton and truly had a great experience. RD, Clark Zealand did an excellent job. I would recommend it and I WILL be back for a significant PR. I really can't thank Crystal & Pam enough for the support, ultra runners create the most amazing and supporting community. It would have been hours longer without the help.
I suffered, but I didn't suffer enough. 

So, now I've qualified for Hardrock and Western....I've put my name in the lottery for both. We'll see what happens. I am assuming on a 1st time try, i will not get in to either. 

Next up....I raced a 5mi with my daughter, have a 5k turkey trot with her again, and a 50k in January. My custom carbon Fat Bike is on it's I am super excited about that!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Race: CLE Trail Marathon 5/10


Race Start

 The inaugural CLE Trail Marathon was held in the North Chagrin Reservation in Willoughby, OH. There are some overlaps in the trails for the Burning River 100 course which starts in the same park. It's a regular training ground for Outrun & many others who love the beauty of this park. North Chagrin has more than a few good hills and Eddie Carrigg managed a way to create a 13.1mi (x2) mile loop that hit all the major ones, which really made for a challenging race.

I did some things different this race.

I went entirely on gels, heed, water, & pretzels. I didn't use any Hammer Perpetuem this time figuring I would be done in (hopefully) less than 5 hours. My training buddy, Dave estimated I would run a 4:20 at the race and I was determined to beat that estimate. I've had races where my training friends have given me arbitrary numbers to beat and it usually works.

Coming in at the 1/2
The plan was to go out conservatively hard...soooo, hard but not to the point where I would be regretting it on the second half. I pushed the downhills, did my gel every 45 mins, hydrated, and did 1 salt stick per hour to manage electrolytes. It was a humid 55-59 degrees and there was a lot of sweating going on. I kept the cadence up, pushed all the hills, walking only the steepest one on the north end of Squire's Castle, minimized any walking and kept the pace on the flats, rollers, and just tried to execute to the plan.

I came into the half at 1:56 or so feeling pretty good and ready for some more punishment. I had held 5th place for that time frame and was hoping I could maintain that of not gain a bit on the second half. I had seen a couple runners behind me and knew they were chasing so I picked up the pace a bit and kept pushing. On the way down to Wilson Mills, Sunita passed me...we ran for about 1/2 mile together, made the turn then she continued on strong up the hill. She eventually passed me and took 3rd overall & 1st female getting stronger as the race went on.

Thanks to the turn around, you were able to see who was in front and behind you to get a gauge on your standings. Rachael Nypaver was close behind and she catches me towards the end of almost every race I do. I was determined to push the effort that day and not loose anymore ground. I was sitting in 6th and didnt want to sink back any further.

I kept the gels, pretzels, salt sticks, and pace going and once I crested the last aid station, the major hills were over and I tried to keep a solid fast pace. As I watched the clock, I thought I was able to run a sub 4 hour marathon albeit by a minute or two, I started to really pick it up at the last mile. With 3:57 on my watch, I came out of the woods to the last stretch dropping sub 7min mile pace, suddenly I hear "Go Daddy!!" from my wife & kids in our van. My hear lept that of all the times and places to be, this was the one spot on the trail they could find me. They pulled in, ran out and all 3 of my kids finished with me. I finished at with a very even split at 3:59:33! an hour faster than I planned!, good enough for 6th overall and 5th male. It averages to about a 9:21 pace, 1,841 feet elevation gain. I ran in the Hoka One One Conquests (again), Smartwool Socks, Mountain Hardwear Shorts, Pearl Izumi top, UD Handheld with Hammer Gels, Honey Stinger Ginsting, and Salt Stick electrolytes. I also listened to music this entire race, something I've never done....I liked it.

Finishing with the kids (1 in front, 2 behind me)

Sunita had gained 9 mins over the last 12 miles and the overall winner Mark Bain crushed it at 3:29. It was a great event. I felt good afterwards and happy with the effort. As a tune up race for Laurel Highlands, I think it will pay some physiological dividends 4 weeks from now.

Big thanks to Eddie, Suzanne, & Heidi as well as all the volunteers who came out and helped and or harassed us on the course. It was a very well marked course, down to earth, great time, and awesome custom welded trophies!

Next up is the Laurel Highlands 70.5miler.


Race: Groundhog 50k 9/6/14

Groundhogs abound in the famous little town of Punxsutawney, PA a town around 6,000 people & 85 miles from Pittsburgh. It's only a 3 hour drive from home and timing was perfect for a tough 50k in preparation for Grindstone 100mi. in Oct.

I will note that I've gotten to that phase in my training where I hear myself telling my running partners how tired I am. I usually push it another week and then take a down week. I did that last week after a lot of late nights and early mornings and long runs. I've felt more tired than normal and just chalked it up to lots of work, family, training, & not a lot of sleep. I was hoping that things would pan out and I would shoot for about a 5hr 50k in Punxy. We (Dave & Sarah) drove to PA Friday afternoon and as the hills started to grow, I realized this would be a good race.

We stopped in at the Gobbler's Knob for race packet pickup and some words from Rob Lott, the RD (through 2014). It's the normal ultra atmosphere, humble, talkative, & friendly. The race will be directed by an new RD for 2015 and will be held in May on Armed Forces Day. We walked across the lawn to take our photos as the famous Punxsutawney Phil stage, found ourselves some great dinner at Mary's Place a few minutes away (dry county, byob) and highly recommended.

The 50k started at 7am around the corner from the Community Center. The 25k started at 9:30am. Weather was pleasant with high humidity. We took off after a veteran who parachuted into Normandy, France on this same day in 1944 (D-Day) gave us the instructions to limber up and...well, start.
pure focus prior to the race

Race start
It's hilly....we climbed up out of town, through the high school, then wandered up a dirt road before we hit the trails. I could feel it in my legs, the same tiredness I had felt the last 2 weeks...figured it would wane and I would find my legs later in the race.

About 4,500' of climbing over 31miles.

The hills are steep! We hit ESPN hill, then Two Beers, then Yellow Bus...wooooo! they are not to be scoffed at. My immediate thought was I was not going to be sub 5 hour today...matter of fact, thought it might be a good idea not to kill myself less than 4 weeks from Grindstone. I found my pace and figured to just stay on track with nutrition, hydration, keep the pace easy, and turn this into a training run. That's pretty much what I did for the entire race...

The course is beautiful, the golden rod was flowering all over the place. Once you get to the top of the hills, you have to take a couple seconds and take a look around.

Top of Yellow Bus hill I think (photo from Sarah Hummel), the hill just drops straight down, not a single switchback on this course!

Speed walking the hill to Buck Run aid station. 

This was the course. You essentially run out and at the Buck Run aid station you begin a loop that you do twice. At the completion of the second loop, you're at mile 23. Head back the way you ran out but with a divergence up to water tower then back to the base of Two Beers hill which is simply humorously steep on the way back up. It's the hills that really make this race tough.

Finishing downtown Punxy. 
The entire course is runnable if you are trained for it & I think under normal conditions, I could've been around the 5 hr time frame, but ended up just over 6 slowest 50k since I began running ultras.

So, recovery was great...I didn't push hard but still ran for a long time on some tough trails so I skipped my Sunday run and worked on the lawn :) back to running Monday for a couple weeks then work on an taper for Grindstone.

I wore the new Hoka Mafate Speed 3 along with a new pair of CEP compression socks that fall just below the calves. I will admit, they were perfect. No blisters, no issues, great traction, & great cushion. 1 handheld bottle, Mountain Hardwear CoolRunner shorts & Pearl Izumi InR Cool tank. Did gels for most of the race along with Salt Stick caps, & pretzels at aid stations. Also, utilized Nuun energy tabs for the second 1/2 of the race....great for electrolytes & caffeine. All in all, a pretty solid nutrition.

so, that's it. Great event, really cool award as well.

- @ultrailz

Monday, June 30, 2014

Race Report: 2014 Laurel Highlands 70.5 Mile

Trying to write this race report on Laurel Highlands Ultra while my legs are not fresh but my mind still is. It’s a 70.5mi trail ultra that takes place on the Laurel Highlands trail that starts by the waterfall at Ohiopyle and finishes just outside Johnstown, PA. This is the race that people say it may be 70miles, but it feels like 100. This is good, this is what I was needing since I didn’t have a summer 100 on the roster.
Rick Freeman, RD and Tim Hewitt, co-RD took over the race 15 years ago which has now been in existence for 35 years. It used to be a self-supported race with an 18 hour limit, no aid stations, and just the 70.5 mile distance. Today, they have great aid stations, 50k distance, 70.5mi relay, and 70.5mi individual distances. I think all total, there were about 340 runners amongst the various distances for the 2014 event.
I had talked to a few folks who have run it in the past and depending on who you asked, the response was something like It’s runnable after mile 35….take it easy on the first 35 miles….don’t run until you’ve finished the 3,000’ climbing after mile 8. After looking through the times from last year and looking up people’s names on, I figured I could be somewhere around the 15 hour mark and it things went really well, in the upper 14 hr range.

Here’s my take/experience:

We were on the bus from the finish at 3:30am sharp, arrived at the start about 45mins later where they had some water, coffee, drop bag drop-off, & check-in. It’s your typical atmosphere pre-ultra….lots of people chatting, hitting the portos, sipping coffee, adjusting gear, and telling stories. Rick urges us over to the start and within a few minutes, we're off and after a short stint on the road, we hit the Laurel Highlands trail and begin the muggy ascent. I kept trying to run easy, run easy, run easy, speed walk easy as it got steeper, but even going easy on those sections was just not easy. A few miles and a few very solid climbs later, it was apparent that this was going to be a true challenge. The humidity was incredibly high, the roots & rocks made for a lot of focus on the foot placement. So, about 8 miles in, there was some respite on the hills…and about after mile 10, it simmered down a bit more and was much more runnable. Yes, runnable. Lots of rocks, lots of roots, but the hills were calming down. For the next 25 miles, there were lots of rolling hills, some short steep ones, beautiful trails and it varied from speed hiking at 15-16min miles to running 10-11 min miles. The first aid station was at mile 19, I was using Hammer Perpeteum so I had two multi-hour bottles to last me to mile 46 where my first drop bag was. I wore my Altra Olympus which has ample cushion, lightweight, but not much lateral support which was wearing on me a bit due to all the off-camber trails. Otherwise, they were pretty good for the race.

The trails are absolutely beautiful. The ground cover is almost all ferns or mountain laurel. There were so many sections where you would look out for a moment and it was just ferns all around, with the trees creating a high canopy. Periodically, you weave through these verdant rock structures, covered in moss, with the trail winding through them. Every so often, you get a moment to peek through the trees and see that you are in the Highlands and how high up you’ve run. Somewhere around mile 35 or so, the trails came up to a ski lodge where you see a sign saying you are at the highest point in the Laurel Highlands, it was beautiful. I was running with the lead female at the time (Johanna) and we chatted about running as we plodded along. I kept with my 1 Salt Stick every 45 mins, perpeteum, and lots of water. I felt good and as the trail smoothed out, it was great to be able to actually run for long stretches.

Mile 46 Aid Station, new socks, new shoes,
loading up on calories. 

I hit the mile 41 aid station where Dan & Anne from Ohio were helping me out, 
Johanna was starting to feel the effects of the run and I told her to take her salt before she headed out. She was leading at that point but fell back a few spots by the end of the race. I got to 46 where Rich was waiting for me, changed my shoes, socks, drank a redbull, took some food, soda, water, Gatorade, and headed off with a full stomach. It made a world of difference…I was really needing calories so when I got to 57 I ate a lot more, grabbed my 2nd drop bag with headlamp, did another redbull, ramen soup, grilled cheese, soda, water, and took off. I was feeling good  and decided I was done playing leapfrog with some other runners (as enjoyable as the conversation was) and with a sub 16hr finish in sight, I focused and pushed hard. I got to mile 62 after a quick stop in the woods to take care of business and loaded up on some soda, & food. They told me 2 miles flat, 3 miles rolling, and 2mi downhill to the finish…and they were right. I pushed hard, seeing 10min miles and faster until I hit the hills, speed walked only when I had to, and mile by mile, reeled in the finish. I passed a few people and with just 2 miles to go and a lot of really rough downhill, I pulled out the headlight. Jody from Fleet Feet had loaned me his Garmin Fenix 2 to try and it was pretty accurate throughout the trail (which is marked EVERY mile with a cement post with that mile) and I kept checking to make sure that the variation between the garmin and the mile markers were accurate so I could make it under 16hrs.
I emptied my bottles, barreled down the last 2 very rocky downhill miles, and with a few hundred yards to go, passed one last runner. I rolled in at 15hrs 36min where Rick immediately gave me the award which is a beautiful wood rendition of the 70th mile marker.

Rick Freeman (RD) smiling bigger than legs hurt. 
This race is hard, it’s very technical, it’s very hilly, but it was absolutely beautiful, historic, and was extremely well organized with a great atmosphere. I will say that if it wasn't so beautiful, it would quite possibly be a really hard race to want to come back to...but it's just beautiful. I stayed downtown Johnstown (which has a significant history from the Great Flood in 1889 which killed over 2,200 people then two more floods in 1936 and 1977) and opted for the pre-race dinner which I recommend for meeting these amazing people, answering questions, and getting some good food.

I’m writing this 6 days after the race, I’ve ridden the bike and run hard twice. I would’ve run a little more but work travel has just not  allowed for the time, which is probably a good thing. My quads were sore and had some post race swelling in the feet but that all subsided within day 2-3. My metabolism was off the charts for the last couple days! This almost has the feel like I completed a 100 miler. Great race, great people, I’ll be back to do it again.


Friday, May 16, 2014

Race: Buzzard Day 50k 3/15

weaving through the 25k Starters as I came in on my 2nd loop. Pretzels stashed in my cheek. 

ok, ok,'s been a loooong time since I posted a race report. Partially because I didn't have any races during the winter.
Coming in from the 1st 25k

My training was really consistent & solid throughout the never-ending Ohio winter. I managed to pick out a treadmill for Xmas and used the heck out of it. I hit the Dion Snowshoes as much as possible with my snow loving dog Sasha and I started really including indoor cycling videos into my XT regimen each week. I am looking to pickup a Fat Bike to extend the ability to ride outdoors in the winter so hopefully, that will be a reality this year.

I followed my 100miler plan which included a lot of long runs in very cold conditions, lots of trails, and more miles on the treadmill than I wanted, but with a -3% to +15% grade, the workouts were pretty effective. I managed some good runs like a 4hr 45min 35 miler that was a combination of roads, trails, and some fast treadmill miles.

Anyhow, Buzzard Day 50k is held in Hinckley somewhere in CVNP I think. I haven't run this before but the weather was looking nice, I needed a long run that day, and my buddy Dave Wank was up for a race as well. He was a little further ahead in his training cycle for O24 and I was still in the mileage base phase. For me, this was a low pressure run.

It was icy, icy, icy and snowy with some mud thrown in but the weather was decent enough for shorts and a long sleeve. So, after a cigar smoke filled pre-race announcement courtesy of Roy, Dave & I lined up with Connie and some others, had some chit chat then tip toed down the trail. I immediately began cursing myself for not putting the trail spikes in my shoes to help with the ice. I went with my Hoka One One Stinson Trail shoes which are ridiculously cushioned with good tread, but I had been having issues with the outer section that hits up under my ankle. It was causing bruising but I chose to wear those over my Altra Lone Peaks that day since I had been training mostly in the Hokas and I wanted the cushion.

I went out too hard. I knew it, but I went with it anyhow. There were a couple of us in the top 5 or so with Nathan Szabados already gaining time on us (and in vibrams, to boot!). Somehow, we missed "the hump" a hill that was essentially an up and back. We kept up the pace, and rounded the lake, still running quick and really enjoying the fact that I was feeling good. Dave & I stayed together for quite some time, got lost a bit in the ledges, found our way up to the aid station and finished up the miles to the 1/2 way point. Dave had gained about 30sec on me on the downhills and as he came out of the AS, he said we missed a section "what section?" I asked, he said "look at our time" which was 1:59 for 16 miles....we were running quick, but not that quick. The AS volunteer explained we would need to run "the hump" twice and then continue on or we would be DQ'd. We found the hump after it had been re-marked. Dave was probably a minute ahead of me at this point. I came into the AS and was extremely clear about where I asked that I needed to turn around at, the volunteer captain showed me where to turn, run back up the hill, then come back in the last time to AS, then continue on.....on my second time down, I see Dave coming up. He had gone too far (or I had gone short). I told him, he told me I was short. I checked with the AS capt again and they confirmed I was good. At that point, I told them they had just inadvertently pushed me into 2nd place since they had Dave run further down the hill.

It was a good 5 miles (about mile 25) before Dave caught me. I was running solid on the very icy lake knowing that Dave was chasing. He had gone from being a min ahead of me to being 2 minutes behind or so. He caught me in the ledges and was fuming with frustration. I swear, if he could've harnessed that frustration, he could have caught Nathan and won the damn race. We stayed together through the 26mi AS and he took off. I had been battling some nausea from eating too much or not right and was pretty happy being 3rd place. I figured I would push it and catch up to Dave so we could battle the finish but it took me 3 miles before I felt good enough to push it. By then, I had crested beyond the 5 hour mark and Dave had gained like 15 mins on me. I let my passiveness get the best of me knowing that I had 3rd place, I just settled in. It was far too late to push for a sub 5. Dave finished about 4:52, I got 5:07 but I was happy overall. This was a tune-up race and for me the fact that I was in decent enough shape to eek out a 3rd place on a 50k was a good day in my book. However, I never should have let the foot off the gas. There is really no reason why I shouldn't have been well under 5 hours. It was a good lesson, each race is.

Perpeteum (should have done Heed) - tossed it a the 25k, went to water, Heed, Pretzels
Salt Stick Caps (1 per Hour)

Pearl Izumi LS top
UD Handheld
Patagonia ProUltra Shorts
Smartwool Socks
Hoka One One Stinson Trail


Finishing up 5:07, 3rd Place OA

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Race Report: 2013 Burning River 100 "The last 14"

This race was on July 27, 2013 and it's now January of 2014! I took a higher position at a new company over the Summer which was a great change but certainly more of a time commitment. My wife's father who had been sick off and on sadly passed in August; it was a tough Summer and certainly not optimal for ultramarathon training. Somehow, it all managed to come together over a very well executed race though.

The time goal was to run under 24 hours, that was it. I have had a couple of 100 milers (Oil Creek and Burning River) resulting in the 28 hour range after being on track for 20-24hrs but with dietary issues and lack of experience leading to slower finished. Leadville 100 ended with a DNF in 2012 due to altitude and frankly, I was getting tired of not running what I felt I was capable of. It's all part of the journey, but I really wanted a solid result....Burning River would be a great place to test it out. I live near the course trails, I've run it, paced it, and the weather turned out to be pretty good.

My friends Dave Wank & JP Preston had generously offered crew & pace me. JP paced me in 2011 where I was stubborn, fast then slow, but learned a lot...he was patient and let me learn. Dave & I are regular training partners and he knew what I was capable of. They essentially alternately crewed and paced me. The nutrition strategy of the race was to each as much as I could stomach for as long as possible in whole foods (sweet potatoes, feedzone portables, etc...) then try to maintain Hammer Perpeteum at about 250/300 Kcals per hour thereafter. Once I could no longer stomach the Hammer, it would me eat anything that I could and continue to monitor the electrolytes. I will say that Dave & JP kept me on task, eating and monitored tremendously was so incredibly key to have a crew to force the food, hammer, hydration...have gear ready, I can't emphasize it enough.

The race was great, my running buddy Jim Mann & I ran together from the start, we paced each other well for....wait for it....65 miles...again.....65miles! I have never run with any one person for anywhere near that distance. It was great for the both of us to have the other to help gauge the pace, food, etc....We came in a little fast (5hr 30min) over the first 50k, but knew that we had some slower miles ahead of us and managed to maintain very well. Jim hit some sugar/sour stomach issues around 34 and I helped him back, we slowed a bit then once the rain started we just gutted it out in the sloppy sloppy mud until mile 55.

NUUN hydration, baby!

We hit the 100k mark in 12hrs 45min and had lost some time due to the significant mud on the previous section. I picked up JP at mile 65, took a redbull, and he helped me get back on track with food. Jim picked up his pacer, Crystal Shinosky as they slowly pulled away for about a 20min lead on me by the end!...I kept with the "short, quick, & choppy" for my cadence for the tiring miles. JP kept me talking and pushing and although I swear I saw a baby chimpanzee in a tree hollow, I was fully aware of my mental state ;)

My family came out to cheer me on around mile 70 and it took all I had not to tear up....It was awesome to have my kids run up and want to have some of my drink, my wife see me smiling with 70 miles in my was great, just great. It lifted me up thinking they were waiting for me, and lifted me long after I ran off from the aid station.

My daughter drinking from my UD handheld at 70mi with ginger ale in it. That's love. 

We hit the Bills Badass loop and JP laid it out for me...if I want a shot at sub 24, we need to hit this 6mi loop in an hour..get to Dave who was waiting at mile 86 for me..and then bring it home. I was feeling good, wanting to catch Jim & Crystal, pushed it a couple times to test the legs for speed and came out 1hr 2mins, ran quickly across the roads & fields to Howe Meadow were I told Dave I was ready for the beatdown. JP executed the pacing perfectly and we had some great conversation along the way.

The last 14. 

86 Miles in the legs...RedBull down, ramen down, salt stick caps, new shoes, new socks, legs ready, yes? Garmin,...garmin dead @ 19.5 hours...who cares, go! I told Dave I had some legs left in me and was saving them for the last 14. He was giddy with the excitement that we weren't going slow....We pushed up the couple miles on the road, up the trail to O'Neil Woods, then down onto the towpath....our pace started to creep faster and faster. I didn't ask what time it was, I didn't ask for pace, sub 24 was almost certain, but I knew that we could get under 23 if we pushed....we pushed. There were a lot of miles somewhere in the 7:30 range and faster as we got closer. We were flying past people doing the death march and I was feeling like I wanted to battle. We did a couple of gels, another RedBull with water, and mile by mile, reeled it in. Dave simply asked "Just give me all you've got and I promise you will be happy with the results." I came in the last mile, JP joined our sub 7 pace came in sight of the clock to see that I was well UNDER 22 HOURS! I finished in 21:43 with the 4th fastest time on the course for the last 14 miles. It was the best executed team effort 100miler I have ever run. Dave & JP rocked and I managed a 7+ hour PR! Proud of Jim Mann & pacer Crystal for executing an amazing race.... Great event, just great.

(Lef to right: JP, Zack, Dave) I swear I'm not as short as I look. "It's an optical's the pleats"

Recovery was very good, ran with the kids the next day and after a couple weeks of easier training, I was back on schedule. Great race, well run, maybe I'll come back in a year or so.

Patagonia ultra Shorts
Pearl Izumi Compression run shorts (mile 40-101)
Pearl Izumi shirts
Ultimate Direction AK Vest
Ultimate Direction Handhelds

Socks: no blisters
ALTRA: Lone Peak, Lone Peak 1.5, Torin, Torin. Smartwool. 
Smartwool PhD (3 pairs)

Shoes: no blisters
Miles 1-55: Altra Torin (1st pair)
Miles 55-86 Altra Lone Peak 1.5
Miles 86 to 101: Altra Torin (2nd pair)

Hammer Perpeteum (w/caffeine)
Baked Sweet Potato 1/4's with sea salt
The Feed Zone Portables (sticky rice/egg/bacon/maple syrup)
Salt Stick electrolyte caps (like gold in a pill)
Aid Station Food: turkey sandwiches, pretzels, water, peanut m&m
RedBull (liquid gold)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Race Report: Foolks 25/50k

I did the Fools 25k (2:39) in 2008 before it was as big as it is now, 50k in 2011 (5:24) where I went out too fast on the first 25k and paid for it dearly on the last 25k. 2012 I was unable to fit it in my schedule and this year I was on vacation the week before but intent on running it. 2013 was supposed to be a sub 5....which I did but only because it was the 25k :)

I even tapered for a week while in Hilton Head...I ran every day but all nice & easy miles on the beach. We ate & drank too much (more of the latter) but enjoyed the family vacation. We arrived after a 15hr drive back home by about midnight, unloaded, packed for the race and then back up at 5am to head down to CVNP. 

The plan was to run consistent and shoot for a solid 4hr 45min run but I never felt quite right, but the pace was decent. I was somewhere about 9th overall but not feeling my normal self. Felt tired, heavy....wondering if the prior day and week really was taking a toll or if it was a mental trick. You'd never guess by the photo, but I was soon to take a turn for the worse...

More air than I expected!

Not finishing was not on the radar but somewhere around mile 10, I started the ultra-slog...felt terrible, exhausted, and not wanting drag myself through the rest of the race just for the sake of not posting a DNF. about mile 15, Jim caught up to me and asked how I was feeling....he had just driven from Florida and was experiencing the same issue. I asked if I stop at 25k, if I get a DNF...when he said no, I made my decision. It was one of those days where I really made a smart move. 

Those last 3 miles really helped make my decision. I rolled in, asked to drop to the 25k....Jim followed suit shortly after and then we sat back and relaxed. This is the first time I've stopped short during a race and gone to the lesser distance. I was glad I did. It allowed me to chat with a number other runners & volunteers, see my friends finish...and enjoy the day. Do I wish I finished? Of course....but it's just a wasn't in the cards that day. I enjoyed the vacation, stayed up late, had fun, played with the family a ton, indulged, etc...then drove all day....I'll take that over a race...


Friday, March 15, 2013

Gear Review: Altra Lone Peak [1 year later review]

I wrote this initial review over a year ago on the first pair of Lone Peaks that I tried. I like to make comments or write occasional product reviews for gear that I actually have used for a good period of time. What better way to review running shoes than to beat em up and live, race, & train in them from beginning to end to see how they really perform and hold up? If you just review them when they are pretty, new, and at 100% it's not a true review, right?

I got about 480 miles out of the first pair of Lone Peaks that I wrote about. Let me say that they were not dead yet but I had torn the upper from the sole large enough to fit a few fingers through, as well as rocks, dirt, etc... The soles had plenty of life left in them and they have since been donated to Purple Heart. I am confident that if my fat feet hadn't blown holes in the sides that I could have gotten 2-300 more miles in them at LEAST. I have friends who are getting +800mi in them. I tend to retire my trail running shoes to landscaping duty somewhere between 300-400mi at best. Either the cushion stops cushing or the uppers tear apart....

I did everything from daily training to racing in them: trails, roads (actually pretty good on roads), trail speed-work, hill-work, technical terrain, snow, rain, rock, you name it, everything from the trails in the Northeast Ohio, to Kettle Moraine trails in Wisconsin, to 110 degree heat in Texas, to the mountains in Colorado for Leadville. All my ultra distance training runs as well as my ultra distance races with the exception of Oil Creek 100 were done in Altras. I'm not a super light runner (~170lbs) and the local Fleet Feet owner tells me I have Fred Flinstone feet....

...which is about right, my feet have increased in overall size since I started doing ultras about 5 years ago now....I have blown out the sides of every single trail shoe that I have owned. I used to wear a 10.5-11 and now I have been wearing 11.5 and 12.0 depending on the model. With all that being said, I admit that I am hard on shoes....most runners are. So I picked up another pair of Lone Peaks needing the new ones before a race, when they arrived, they were the same size as before but too small....I was stuck and raced Leadville in them anyhow....put in a few weeks of training in them before I just asked if I could warranty them for a larger size, which they did (awesome). Looks like any sizing issues have since been resolved with Altra. I'm now over 220 miles in the current pair and have added some shoe goo to the sides to make sure I don't blow these out...thus far it's working quite well.

I re-read my previous post on these shoes....All my original comments and initial thoughts were confirmed. I used them for all my training and racing for the Leadville Trail 100 and all my events since. Due to availability issues, I didn't have them for Oil Creek 100 and I really wish I makes me appreciate them all the more now.

I still would like to make sure that people understand that this is not a minimal shoe. This is a natural style running shoe (see left pic). It's zero drop with a 22.5mm heel and 22.5mm forefoot....that's not minimal in my opinion. The shape of the shoe is what sold me initially, it's foot shaped and therefore it fits my feet (imagine that), allows for natural foot splay, traction is outstanding in mud & snow and everything in between. In some situations, it's more shoe than you may need...say for trail races that you could use road shoes on, but I use them for everything.

Below is a shot from a local 10k trail race that was all ice & snow....I managed 12th OA of a 300 person race, which for me is really good at that distance. This is to brag about the was perfect. I didn't put screws in my shoes for the ice, just laced 'em up and went.

running ~6:15 pace downhill on snow/ice with confidence!

Here are the specs from Altra's website:

  • Weight: 9.9 oz
  • Midsole: Zero Drop™ EVA/A-Bound Midsole
  • Foot Shaped Design: Male FS-1 Last
  • NRS: Natural Ride System
  • Outsole: TrailClaw Outsole
  • StoneGuard and Trail Rudder
  • Insole: Mountain Footbed (Similar to Support Footbed)
  • Upper: Quick dry abrasion resistant mesh upper with minimal seams
  • Asymmetrical Lacing, HeelClaw, and A-Wrap for Superior Fit
  • Liner: Drilex Premium Liner
  • Stack height = The total thickness of the shoe/the distance between the foot and the ground.
    With Footbed: 22.5mm(Heel)/22.5mm (Forefoot)
    Without footbed: 17.5mm(Heel)/17.5mm (Forefoot

I've now run in the Lone Peak, Superior, Instinct 1.5, Instinct 2.0, and most recently the Torin. I am really looking forward to try the Lone Peak 1.5 (April '13). This post is about the Lone Peak...but I will tell you that I am head over heels for the Torin (road)....I'll have to do another post for that one.

I would say that once I transitioned to the zero drop it's not even noticeable anymore. I am a mid/forefoot runner still and have been working on becoming more efficient each year. I also fiddle with the lacing patterns a little bit to dial in the lose or snug-ness of the shoe but once they are all set, I haven't had to change them. My shoe choice for BR100 this year will be the Altra Lone Peak (trail) and the Torin (road) unless I can find even more love with the LP 1.5. I'll be racing the Fools 50k in a few weeks in the LP's for certain.


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Race: Dirty Love Trail 10k

The Dirty Love Trail Run 10k

I know, I's not an ultra..but it was a great race! With sick kids, sick wife, cancelled snowshoe race, and raging to run something hard this weekend, I was lucky to get out and sign up for the Dirty Love Trail Run 10k which is about 10min from me on trails that I know well.

I can't recall the last time I actually raced a 10k on the road or trails, so this was a PR and a CR for me :)

I got in a nice 3mi warm-up on the icy/snowy trails, shed the tights & fleece cap for shorts on this sunny day, lined up and decided to just run hard and try not to ease into a comfortable pace. There were just under 300 runners and in short races with this many people, I rarely place in the top....

The course is a great mixture of a creek crossing, singletrack, bridal trails, and lots of good variations in terrain. The hardest part was trying to get decent footing on the icy trail. Staying on the edge of the trail where there was a dusting of snow was the best bet...then just hoping for the best when slipping around.

The strategy was to start smart, run the tough hill, Ox Lane with an average of 19.5% grade at a decent clip, push over the top and try to keep it under an 8min/mi for the rest of the race.

That's the race....up the hill, along some good rollers...then ultimately back down and to the finish.

Lessons learned: It hurt, just like it should! Bit by bit, I chipped away at people in front of me....reeled them in one by one. Bombed the downhills, pushed the uphills, and tried not to chill out on the flatter sections. It by far was one of my most well played races. As my buddy Dave said "You may have found your distance!" Maybe...especially when this is not what I train for.

Results:  I finished at 47:38 (7:40 pace) for 12th Overall, and 2nd in my AG which is really good for me in a field that large. Had the footing been better, we all would've run faster...but I was REALLY happy to finish that close to the top 10. I am amazed at the top male (John S.?) who averaged 6:27/mi over that terrain...astounding!

I only got in 9+ miles that day of running and about the same on Saturday which was -10 miles I wanted over the weekend....However, it's early in the season and I have solid miles in so I am not fretting it. Fast speedwork counts double, right??

Shoes: zero drop Altra Lone Peaks, baby! This is my 3rd run in them (second pair) and they worked fantastic. No hot spots, great traction considering, and my ever present smartwool socks.
Overall, I was just really happy to have a great race...the day went well and I've got a nice mug to boot! See you on the trails!


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Ultrarunning and Periodization Plans

2013 Plans coming together and a ramble on Periodization planning for ultrarunning. 

Well, the running plans are starting to materialize a little better thus far....

  • Groundhog Day 10k Snowshoe Race (cancelled - see Dirty Love 10k race report coming soon). 
  • Fools 50k
  • O24 (directing)
  • Cleveland Marathon
  • TNF Endurance D.C. (50mi) -or- Mohican 50mi -or- Laurel Highlands 70mi or 50k. 
  • Lake Health Distance 1/2 Marathon
  • Burning River 100
  • Fall Road Marathon
  • Oil Creek 100
  • TNF Endurance Madison, WI (50mi)

It's a skeleton plan at the moment but we'll see what work travel, family, and life brings to the schedule....

Training ramble: 

Training is going very well....I'm at the stage where I am toying with plans that I have used in the past vs. higher mileage and structured weeks with plenty of speed work, hill training, cross training. Ultimately, I've modified my micro cycle weekly plan to a slightly modified plan that allows me more mileage and still get in the cross training...the last plan was successful in the fact that I arrived at the starting line for Mohican 50mi, Leadville 100mi, Oil Creek 100mi, and Bills Badass 50k healthy and injury free with a good amount of speedwork under my belt and quality training hours but I felt like I could use some more miles...

It's hard as an athlete, whether as a cyclist or a runner to not focus on your miles for the week/ the last year, I felt like I had really increased my core strength, speed, and overall fitness. I tried to focus on training hours and sort of cover one eye when looking at my miles each week....knowing that I was doing the "equivalent" work in hours was reassuring, but I still felt like I needed to log more miles. Sport specificity no doubt has merit, so if you want to be a good runner...then run, right?! If you want to run fast, then run fast in training....get it? I struggle with this simply because I came from a background in multiple sports (soccer, lacrosse, cycling, etc) and I love to get out on the bike which was my true passion for many years. I figure if I'm tired of logging miles and need a little break....I hop on the bike in lieu of a medium's mentally refreshing and keeps the injuries at bay.

Experiment of one, right? The one thing that has always worked for me is periodization training;  macro, meso, & micro cycles. I don't do well on the "just go out and run" plan...So, if you look over the course of a year which could include a few macro cycles (2-3mos) comprised of mesocycles (4-6 weeks) made up of microcycles (individual week) you can begin to put together your season, month, week, & day...

Most periodization plans will have some sort of structure like this (I've added my personal take on it):

  • Transition Phase (4-8weeks +/-): where you focus on form, technique, recovery from injuries, etc...this is the time of year you chill out and get fat. I don't do this well....I'll maintain 40-50mpw regardless as well as lots of cross training. 
  • Base Phase (2-3mos +\-): more focused than the transition time frame but lasts much longer....ideally, you spend some time in this phase building a strong aerobic base, efforts are easy, nothing crazy, etc... and in some plans this lasts a couple months or more....I do this okay, but I tend to start speedwork early and hill work, I get anxious to get long runs in...usually a race helps...Good time for higher mileage
  • Building Phase (4-8wks +\-)- think the controlled increase of speedwork, hills, (both intensity and duration) and increasing mileage/hours, back to backs....preparing the foundation for the next phase. By the time I'm doing this, I am usually doing tough efforts...mileage is working it's way up and having fun with it. 
  • Peak Phase (4-6wks+\-): hard work, speed work, strong efforts, long runs, back to backs, with rest to allow for the body to reap the benefits of the efforts you are putting in. This is what I like the most....long runs, speedwork, high mileage weeks, followed by step back weeks....I ride the fence on fitness vs. injury in this time frame. This is where you are stressing your system and with a well planned step back prior to your event, you should reap the benefits and be able to repeat the efforts during a race. mileage peaking 90-100+ mpw. 

The problem that a lot of us have is that we are not elite athletes paid by large sponsors to just race with an elite coach telling us exactly what to do....I have a career, family, and there has to be a lot of compromise and adjusting to train for ultras and not take away from what is really important in life...not that ultras aren't important...but you know what I mean (hopefully).

Also, we don't just train for one race...we're ultra many of us follow something like a carefully laid out plan for just one race??? C'mon....Type B personalities need not apply, we love to run, we HAVE to run, so we sign up for too many races and when a friend says "Hey, let's run a 50k today" you say sure, why not? We run 'till we get injured then run too soon after the injury...

So as you can tell, I like works well for me mentally and I like a carefully laid out plan that accounts for inevitable variations and times when you just can't follow it. It doesn't work for everyone but over the years when I have strayed from a structured plan, I've either gone too hard and gotten injured or not gone hard and paid the price on race day....This helps me keep the balance.

Here is the change at the micro level (sample):

It allows me to get in 1-2 more days per week of running so I get the miles without crazy midweek runs but still maintain the cross training. If I'm feeling like I am running too much, I'll back off a day and cross train or simply rest.

This is a representation of my weekly mileage buildups focusing on BR100....every 3 weeks there is a planned rest week, then resume at the previous week's mileage and continue to build....with a 3 week step down to the race....Each week contains the structure (in general) from the micro chart...I'm not a high mileage guy, you'll see that there is only 1 week > 100mi, except for the race week...This, to me is a graphical representation of Stress + Recovery = Adaptation. Increased adaptation = improved running times/experiences. Improved running experiences = increased happiness and all is right with the world :)

What about multiple ultras? So, I suggest prioritizing your race schedule....using races as "training" for other races is a great idea, especially if the races fit well into your training lessens the burden of knowing this is not what you've trained all season for, you can relax a little, test gear, food,'s a race yes, but not the race....I can't afford the time to race a lot each year so I have to be careful on what I choose for my races. I try to fit them into my training schedule such as running Mohican 50 in June before running Burning River 100 at the end of July....For multiple events outside of the macro cycle, I will essentially re-create portions of my training plan with consideration of how I feel. Example: Leadville 100 was about 7 weeks before Oil Creek 100. I took the last 7 weeks of my training for LT100 and re-did them for OC100. Keep in mind that I DNF'd LT100 due to altitude, so the recovery was less than what it would've been if I completed the 100....but you get the idea. I would have probably relaxed for 1-2 weeks after LT100 before completely resuming the plan...whatever works best for ya.

The funny thing is that this is always changing, right? If I look back at my training blog comments in the past I recall having a major desire to get back on the the training plan for Leadville really made me happy as I was able to incorporate that into my weekly training....I didn't want to lose that in this year's plan but I want to play with increasing, experiment of we go again....

I think a lot of people debate over the concept of quantity vs. quality...Maybe I'm wrong here, but I think what we should aspire to attain is sort of a blend of both. If all you do is quantity, where is the quality coming from? I suggest that you need both....quality workouts in the specific periods that incorporate speed, hills, aerobic base, long runs, etc... as your mileage increases you will have the quantity but it should be quality long miles as tastes great AND it's less filling, right?

I suppose I am putting this all together for a couple reasons....If it helps anyone understand the structure of how one person puts together the schedule for ultra or virtually any other sport that incorporates periodization plans (google it for many more examples) and secondly so I can look back at this next year and modify as needed for future races/events. That's one of the great things about ultra running....always learning.

Note: there is a lot of information out there, an interesting site to read is Kevin Sayers running site that has input from a massive amount of experienced runners - if you look at the Matt Mahony #1 post in that link, he cites an interesting survey he took a few years ago correlating mileage to finish rates and speed.

Coaches: I've gone back and forth on having coaches (iRunFar Coach list & article)....Overall, I have always progressed with coaching, especially with one who knows you and can push you. I am currently coach-less but I have strong training partners and quite honestly, I am going to try on my own for a while again. Bottom line, if you can afford it I highly recommend it.

By the way, I'm not a coach, trainer, or certified in anything fitness related....that's my legal disclaimer if you follow any "advice" from this blog and want to blame me for any part it....