Monday, November 19, 2012

Race Report: Bills Badass 50k

This was a tremendously fun event. There are two aspects to the event that stand out for me.

ONE: Outrun Cancer / No One Fights Alone

One of our Outrun Team members, Mike Shaughnessy was diagnosed with cancer this year. His outlook is good and his attitude is better. His attitude at facing this is not unlike the ultra mentality that he has. As a matter of opinion, I think that the ultra mentality is key. Ultras are tough, they last a long ass time, they hurt, but if you do the work, deal with the ups and downs, you can complete it. His results don't lie, he's a very strong runner which means he is a very strong person. Brooke put together a special order of shirts that became a flood of red on the BBA50k course this weekend. Mike's wife Beth completed her first 50k and there was a reciprocal inspiration going on at the race at many levels.

It was simply outstanding.

Mike in the middle (white montrail hat)


BBA50K run report: I've been battling shoes for a few months now trying to get the right size Altra. I literally picked up my Altra Superior from Fleet Feet on Friday afternoon. They are soft and ready to run out of the box, but I have never just pulled out a pair and at least gone for a short run in new shoes before a race. I played with the cushion in them and ended up with an orange pair of Superfeet insoles.

Anyhow, my goal was to hurt most of the run....try to go out s/w fast and see if I can hang in with the ups & downs and try to push when it was going to hurt. I did think that I was capable of a sub-5 hr 50k if I wanted it bad enough.

The day was gorgeous and from the beginning, I was running behind Brad Polman (in front/black). I just ran my pace, stayed steady on the hills and tried to gain a little time on the downhills. The shoes were working well and I felt good, but a lot can happen in just 31 miles. Somewhere on the second lap, Radames caught up to me and we ran together for quite some time. He was chasing Mike & Beth who had started early. Rad was running strong and had he been running the race to race it, I am sure he would have been top 3. We plugged along at a pretty good pace; I stopped a couple of times to fiddle with my shoelaces until I got them dialed in while Rad crept away from me...I think somewhere around mile 15 at the AS, I must have passed him while he was in the porto but I thought he had decided to race and I was still fighting for 3rd.

Rad & I with leader Brad in the backgound.
Trying to hold him back...

Things were good, I could see the bright green of George Themalis in the close background where he had been for quite some time. George is strong & steady and I knew that I would degrade just hopefully not enough for him to catch me.....He passed me at the AS just before the 5th loop (20-25). I wasn't being slow about it, but he came in, rounded the post and kept running. I had seen Brad on the way in and thought that I still had a chance to catch if they slowed....11 miles to go and I wasn't sure who was behind me, or how Brad & George were feeling.

I maintained relatively well and tried to make sure that I hurt and tried not to relax...My splits were starting to slow slightly but not too bad. 

Somewhere around mile 20.

Laurie Colon was out on the course taking photos (thank you!!) and kept me informed of where George was and if anyone was behind me....all I had to do was hang on, not slow down and I would keep 3rd place. I wasn't going to be sub 5 today, but a good race nonetheless. Coming into the last mile, it's a great feeling knowing that all you have to do is run up a steep hill, grab some candy and bomb down for the finish. As I was about 1/2 way up the hill I heard someone yell "IF YOU RUN FAST, YOU CAN CATCH ZACK!!" I looked down to see someone coming across the road.....sorry, but there was no damn way that I was going to lose my spot after working all day for this....not in the last half mile. I picked up the pace to near vomit level, got my candy and hammered down. It wasn't the time I wanted, but it was what I ran....I was really happy to take 3rd with a 5:19. Brad & George were solid alllllll day and I have still a lot to learn. I think the lesson at the race was that I need to up the pain level for faster results, simple as that. 

Wild Bill & Chef Bill make a VERY entertaining, fun, & challenging race. There were no straight answers, there are many rules referred to but I think they are mostly made up. You're either a candy-ass or a bad-ass, I was the former, now the latter but I think that can change from year to year. We got hand-stamped dog tags at the end which was awesome. I also managed to win a free pair of shoes from Fleet Feet (YES!!!!!).  Big congrats to all the BA's out there....
Founding Badasses: Chef Bill (L), Wild Bill (R)
Chef Bill (top of heads)

Garmin 910 stats

I don't have any more races on the schedule at the moment which is odd for me. There are some snowshoe races that I am planning on running in and directing one. I also plan to do at least one 50k snowshoe event (solo or with peeps) and then the O24 (directing) in April. 

The plans have turned to 2013 and I have some ideas but no actual registrations yet. In the meantime, I've been working on building up a singlespeed mtn bike and doing a lot of insanity/crossfit workouts with running thrown in.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Race Report: Oil Creek 100 Trail Run

As a special note, I ran Oil Creek as a way to raise funds for United Way through my job at Rockwell Automation. I half expected everyone to think I was crazy, but people were very supportive and I was proud to raise funds this way.

This was an interesting one. I repeated the last 7 weeks of training for Leadville 100 as my continued training for Oil Creek 100. Training was solid, fitness was good, I had to work through a piriformis syndrome and was able to with the help of Dr.Tim Keyes and a ton of specific stretching, exercises, & trigger point roller.

The course is 3 loops of a 50k trail course and a final 4th loop of 7mi totaling 100.6mi. The 50k loop is just under 5,459 ft elevation gain and the last 7 mi was 1,034 gain for a total of about 17,627. I assumed that this course compared somewhere between Mohican and Burning River, being a little closer to Mohican....I can say now that I personally think this was harder than Mohican.

The plan was to run about a 11:30 pace for the sections that were runnable, let the hills, aid stations, and increasing mileage take care of the eventual degrading pace. I wanted 22-24hrs but was well aware that I would be running more like 24-26hrs. I planned on Lap 1 @ 6:30, Lap 2 @ 6:30-7:30, Lap 3 @ 7:30-8 and the last 7 under 2 hours. This was my planned conservative effort that would have gotten me right around 23 hours, less if everything went well. I had everything planned out, drop bags, food, gear, timing, everything was pretty well planned. I was getting excited and hoping that a good race was going to ensue. My crew consisted of Dave Morl for the first 62 miles and then he paced me for the last 38.6. More on that shortly.

Lap 1, 50k / 31mi

It was 22 degrees at the start but not windy, so it was very pleasant. Even with over a mile to the single-track, we ended up in a slow traffic jam for a couple miles. This is always tough, I can't handle being bunched up and anxiety was testing me about getting out of the crowd. I was ready to run alone. Although I am used to technical trail running, this one was pretty relentless....You just cant look up very often or you hit some root or rock that is hidden under the leaves or off-camber trail. A few miles later, I jumped out of the crowd and ran my pace to get away....I felt great, the course was hard, with long climbs and lots of great single track...all in the dark.

I hit the first aid station (15.5mi +/-) at 2:38, about 20 mins ahead of my plan....not necessarily a good thing, I had a little UCAN and headed on. Each aid station is followed by a tough hill....every one. The second half is beautiful, lots of pine trees a few sections that are just long sloping downhills....but there were significant uphills waiting....Ida Tarbell's Revenge, Death March, John's Run, Rockefeller's Revenge to name the memorable ones. They were all tough...but you get into a good rhythm and go. It was tough...I did the second half in about 3hr 40min, an hour longer than the first section...totaling 6:20 at the HQ aid station. I had some more UCAN, grapes, ramen broth, and SCAPS then moved out with Dave pushing me across the mat.

Lap 2, 100k / 62mi

I ran with a couple of great guys, Jason M and another guy who I never got his name....but we were trucking along for a while when I decided I needed to throw up. I slowed it down, walked a bit and began the sudden and long battle with nausea. I walked into AS#1, Wolfkiel and tried to get back on track. I was walking past these young girls at the AS all cuddled up to stay warm...they asked if I needed anything and I said I was going to find a place to yak. I heard a collective "ewwwwwww" which made me smile. One of the AS volunteers got me some ginger and saltines...and I headed on my way, walking, up the 11 switchback hill. I continued this walk from mile 38 to 44. I literally lost hours..going from an 11:30 pace to 25min/mi..I didnt want to turn around, I didnt want to go forward, I wanted the nausea to go away. I tried to run, no luck....just kept dry heaving. I sat down more than a few times while people passed. Steve Hawthorne passed me asking what my plan was...I told him I was going to get to the next aid station and call it a day unless this stops, I was pretty certain about it. Not much longer a couple of the 100k runners came through, realizing I had lost at least an hour now....I kept waiting for my friends to start passing me but I was alone for a loooong time. Chris Basich (100k) passed me and I asked that he tell Crystal and my crew, Dave that I was not doing well and will probably want to step out of the race. I spent the next 2 hours debating a DNF, I could walk like this and finish, but I really just wanted to go home and see my kids....I started to get a little emotional about my kids....but kept plugging along.

I finally started being able to stomach the saltines....cracker by cracker I started to eat and feel a little less nauseous. I walked into the aid station at Petro Center and Dave came to greet me. This is the part that having a strong crew made all the difference. I told him I didnt want to do another lap...."I know"...then he got me food....I dont want to go to 62..."I know"....more food. I could not face him and say "I am DNF'ing" it just wasn't in my vocabulary....not while I was taking food and realizing that I was getting better. I sat for a good 20 mins, and ate the entire time. He made me a "feed bag" with all kinds of stuff (fig newtons, peanuts, cashews, peanut m&m's, raisins, crackers, pretzels) and I asked for my hydration pack, headlamp, light jacket for the potential rain. He sent me on my way. Within 30 mins I was running again...and running strong. Food was the miracle....go figure :)

I rolled into AS#4 at mile 62 late that night....9:15pm? I felt good, and was ready for Dave to pace me....I was ready for a killer last loop and DNF'ing was not even an iota of a thought. He asked what I wanted to do and I told him head out, he smacked both my legs with pure joy and finished up in the AS before we headed back out. It started to rain pretty heavily, which I like....I love running in the rain.

150k / 93mi

I can make this shorter....we killed it, ran in the dark the next 15 miles in about 3:11....we had some ups and down, but mostly trying to recovery from hills. The hills were taking a lot out of me and my quads weren't used to the downhills.....they hurt, but it was just muscle pain, I would take a couple deep breaths and then get into the shuffle. A slow shuffle is faster than my fast walk, so we tried to keep the shuffle as much as possible. The last 15.5 miles were tough....lots of hills, rain, etc....but we were moving forward and knew that finishing was getting closer. We ran what we could....then ran into the AS#4 for the final 7mi loop. We re-fueled at the highschool and went out to get this damn thing over with. We left the aid station with 27 hours on my legs.

11k / 7mi. 

The last loop is nice-sort of. You only have about 4 miles on the trail....but at least .5 of it is a crazy ass hill called the Hill of Truth, about mile 97-ish of the course. We got it done eventually...and when it merged with the trail at the top, I had it....I needed to knock it out...We did a quick calculation to be sub 29 and I just aid, let's go. We did....somehow we knocked out 8-10 min/mi averages for the last 2.8 miles, finishing what felt like sub 8.

Finish, 100.6mi.

28hr 52min 36sec in the books. It was a great comeback story and although I was hours away from my goal, I was happier with a comeback like this than a DNF. I talked to a lot of really great people on the trail, sharing stories, and experiences. I can't thank Dave enough for the support both crewing and pacing, it makes the story all the better.

A lot of people ran an amazing race over the weekend, not all of us finished.....but the fact is, if you crossed the start line Saturday morning, you gave it your best. I am really proud everyone out there.....ultras are not easy, that's why so few of us do them.

I still haven't learned to eat and stop going out fast. Plenty of time to get it right.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Race Report: Proud of my Leadville 100 DNF

I spent 8 months of my running life with one running goal in mind.....Complete the Leadville 100 Trail Run. There has been no real doubt in my mind that I was able to complete it. There still is no doubt that I can complete it. I've written & talked about all aspects, the training, the nutrition, the mentality, the coaching, Runwell, Outrun, etc... All built up to one race. This was my personal Tour de France with the added motivation that I was doing this not for myself but to support & try to inspire others through Runwell and embracing a healthier lifestyle.

I even did an interview with the News Herald who did a really nice article on the event. I was super proud to show my family the article...

For the better part of the year, I have thought about Leadville multiple times a day, all my training for this one race. Was I nervous? No....not until I got on the plane and realized that I was about to run 100 miles at altitudes that I had not raced at before. I researched altitude tents, diamox, lung trainers, elevation training masks, heat training vs. altitude, read blogs, scoured running forums, researched results for midwesterners who have done well at altitude. In the end, the best thing for altitude training is to train at altitude...get to the event at least 14 days prior to the event to allow your red blood cells to increase....OR get to the event and have completed the race within 72 hours upon arrival. This way, if you are affected it occurs on the way home not during the race (hopefully). I talked to fellow ultrarunners, emailed with elite runners, read running forums on the topic, and listened. I tried to learn why I die on the back half of races (because I go out too fast, duh). Nutrition was dialed in, shoes and training gear tested and re-tested. (Thank you Fleet Feet!).

So, it gets Dad is crewing for me. This is a first time for him to see me at an ultra. Not just a local ultra, but THE ultra for me. We haven't had time together like this for many many years, far too long to admit. This is special. We check out Leadville...this town is 30 years of Leadville racing history. I have never seen anything like it.

It's calm in's gorgeous there in the mountains. People look you in the eye and hold the door just to be friendly. They ask you how you are. These folks know you aren't local....but they know that if you have come here, you are going to be, or already are, part of the Leadville family.

We go to the pre-race meeting on Friday. There is no way that I can do it justice. I have not been to a world class event like this. There is so much history and passion behind this event, it's just awe inspiring. The race director, Josh is calm and effective. Cole Chlouber (race founder, Ken Chlouber's son) gives a speech that leaves new and experienced LT100 runners and their crews weeping.

These folks in the 6th street gym are not everyday people doing amazing things, these are people who are amazing and doing amazing step at a time. 

802 runners picked up packets before the race. 200 volunteers and the race staff made this race happen.

They discuss the Leadville Legacy Foundation that has given back hundreds of thousands of dollars to the community, hundreds of scholarships to highschool seniors going on to higher education.

This is a community built around the race series. They WANT you in the family, they WANT you to succeed. The fact that you have shown up and lined up and crossed the start line shows that you have what it takes. You have committed that you will not quit.
My strategy was relatively simple. I needed to slow down early in the race, run consistent, speed walk the hills, and follow my nutrition plan (UCAN, S Caps, Water, Nuun). I calmly walked to the back of the starting line (795 starters). I literally started in the last line. I figured that I would be forced to slow down and save energy for the next 24-30 hours, depending on how I respected the trail. I settled into a nice pace, easy and enjoyable for a 4am start in the Colorado Rockies. I rolled into Mayqueen right on schedule (13.5mi). My Dad was waiting for me, we followed the plan...changed gloves, drank UCAN, exchanged hand-held bottle with NUUN, and plodded off to the next aid station at mile 23, the Fish Hatchery. The next 10 miles were a great tease of what the course was going to be like, yet I knew the next beast would be Hope Pass. We climbed up to about 11,100 feet...most of the runners were quiet, saving precious energy from talking, there was a lot of excitement. I turned more than a few times to look back at the views as we climbed up and up. I said "wow" outloud more than once. We are truly blessed to be able to experience this.

We descended the powerline section....I am not sure how long this downhill was, but it felt like 4 miles and over 1,000' thought was this will be the most painful beast that we will need to tame at mile 80 or so on the way back. If you can make it to power line and OVER powerline, the rest is literally downhill....then rolling flats around Turquoise Lake to the finish. I stopped and picked out a couple nice looking rocks for my kids, something I like to do when I go places...Somewhere around mile 21, we came out onto the road where a crowd of volunteers were cheering us on....someone had cornhole setup. I asked if anyone had played yet, they said one guy, I asked if I could play...SURE! I ran back, took a couple on the board and continued on the race. I played cornhole in an ultra...that rocked. I felt really strong.

I rolled into the fish hatchery at mile 23, found my Dad all organized and prepared. I did a quick change into warmer weather gear, ran up to get my chip timer read and off I went to Half Pipe at mile 30.

I was about 15-20 mins ahead of a conservative schedule. I am no elite runner, this is a pace to finish. I felt great, nutrition was good...stayed on task, even called home to let the family know I was doing well. We ran off down a long road section while cars drove by cheering us on. I alternated running and slight speed walking breaks trying to conserve for the long hours ahead.
The scenery is literally breathtaking. I took time to enjoy it, looked back in complete awe of what we are experiencing. If you keep your head down the entire time and you don't look up and see where you are, I think you could miss out on some of the most beautiful things the earth has to offer.

It was still morning but the sun was beating down on the exposed race route. You could see runner's heads for what seemed like 2 miles traveling along the road, then turning onto a gorgeous trail up on the way to half-pipe aid station.

We went through a crew access point, where someone offered me some water to top off my supply (I love ultra crews) then continued along the trail alternating my ultra-shuffle and speed walking at a finisher's pace. With only a few 100 yds to go to Half Pipe, fellow Ohio runner Michelle Bichel passes me and we run into the aid station together. I remarked, "this isn't like Ohio"....she gave me a "no kidding" look :) We sat for a few minutes getting ramen, water, was 9 miles to Twin Lakes where my Dad would be waiting for me, expecting a 12:30 arrival time. It's a crucial aid station before Hope Pass (12,600') to Winfield (Mile 50) where you then turn around and run the entire course back. I did not have an extra packet of UCAN so I grabbed a small cup of coca-cola (something I never do this early), figuring the calories would be fine this early in the race.It looked and tasted good, but I regretted it immediately. Michelle took off, I told her I would see her soon...

As I went to top off my water an aid station volunteer saw the look on my face. "you okay?"...."no, I think I am about to do what that guy is doing (gesturing to a runner vomiting by the tent)." I sat for a moment, they got me a Tums. I decided that I could speed walk with an upset I went. I had time, but not a ton. Need to get moving. I didn't want to play the cut-off game this early in the race. 

(if you don't like nausea details, don't read this section)
I made it about 1/4 mi. A fellow runner saw me and said, "just throw up, you'll feel better"....I did. I felt better for a moment. Get back moving....not feeling better....vomit again....okay, surely I will feel better now. I get moving....vomit again...get moving...again, moving, again , moving, now out of both ends (sorry, but true). This is okay, I can deal with discomfort....for the next 69 miles if I have to. I can make it to the Twin Lakes aid station, get my nausea under control...make it over Hope with it....the buckle will be in my hands Sunday morning....vomit again, keep moving....again, keep moving, bathroom, vomit, bathroom, vomit...this continues for 4 miles.

Fellow runners passing by me ask if I am okay....I admit, "no". Do you need anything..."no, just a new stomach". "You Sure?", "no...but thank you". Someone offeres me papaya enzymes, tums, coke, scaps,, no, NO, no, no. A girl comes ok? No..."what do you need?", I tell her to "go on, thanks but I'll be ok". She's not listening to my directions....takes off her pack..."do you have water?," "yes", "electrolytes?", "yes", "ginger?"..."no, let's try ginger"...I would have hugged her if I could've. She was fighting the cutoff time by now and stopped to help me, someone she didn't know. I didn't even get her name...I was impressed and humbled.

I am feeling the buckle slip out of my hand.....I have gone from standing on two feet, to one knee down, to two knees, to all fours....just need it to stop, I can't keep doing this while I am running. I take the ginger pill. It feels like it's going to work...the buckle is in my hand again!!!! No, I can't keep it down (ginger is really unpleasant to throw up).

--(continue reading)
At this point, I calculate that I can still walk at fast pace and make it to Twin Lakes with enough time before cutoff to continue...I had 5 miles to go. I could get there, sneak in, get my nausea under control...don't mention the headache...and make it up and over Hope Pass...get a pacer at Winfield, then just dig deep and manage from Aid Station to Aid Station. I had decided on a shoe strategy for the last 40 miles, I was ready to deal with the longest and worst endurance event of my life. This was going to be my story....endure, don't give up, pain management, this is what I signed up for.

back to reality....I took a moment, realizing I was on my hands and knees while trying to take stock of the situation. This wasn't a food issue, it was too early for that, only 34 miles in. Everything was out of my body, nothing left....this was altitude affecting me. This can't be...I've been to base camp at Everest at 18,200 feet slept at 16,000', I've run miles above 11,000', hiked Mt.Ranier, never an issue...not me, I'm wired for altitude. ---yet, I am in the middle of the Leadville 100 on my hands and knees showing clear signs of altitude sickness. This is the reality, I was at 10,000' and needed to get to lower elevation. A runner came by and asked if she could send someone from the next aid station..."yes, yes...I think that would be a good idea....bib number 580, Zachary dad is Tim Johnson...please don't send search & rescue...just an aid station worker, please.......thank you"

I threw up again....then figured it would be a while before anyone got to me. So, I got up and kept moving forward. It wasn't a 1/2 mile before I came around a bend to find a US Forest Service guy (Dave) on an enormous 4 wheeler talking to a randomly lost hiker with a sprained knee. We talked, and he gave me a choice of riding back with him and this lost hiker....or waiting and he would come back. I decided I would wait. I knew if I went back, the race would really be over. I found a shady spot and laid down, while a squirrel chirped at me. I threw a stick at him...he just moved and chirped more, he was entertaining. 

Dave came back with a ski patrol worker, Steve who gave a quick assessment, took vitals, and decided quite confidently I had Acute Mountain Sickness. Shit. I am about to get pulled for medical reasons. I told him that I pissed off a squirrel and he wanted me to leave, so it was probably for the best. I got nauseous again. The ride back was not comfortable and we had to make a bathroom stop.We got to the medical tent back at Half Pipe, where the lead medical person, Robin Johnson, Steve, and fellow Ohioan Kim brought me back to life. We contacted my Dad, who was obviously worried since I hadn't arrived at Twin well as my friends and family tracking online. He arrived over an hour later due to the distance to get there. I was doing better after treatment, but needed to get off the mountain. Simply stated, the race volunteers from Cooper Mountain Ski Patrol are awesome. They all asked as I pulled away if they would see me next year. I said yes. Well, maybe not next year, but I will be back.

I called my wife....I was sad and disappointed. She, on the other hand, was incredibly proud....I think that hearing those words from my wife were amazing...I didn't give up, this was out of my control...I didn't fail...

It's hard...all the work, all the effort, the emotion, all the time put in...

I am writing this as I sit in the hotel in Buena Vista, CO (7,500'). I should have finished this morning sometime 28-30 hours after the start. Instead, we went to the race awards ceremony and we were further inspired. My Dad & I talked to lots of runners who finished and some who didn't finish. Tom Bauer who graciously educated me on Leadville and his wife, Paula who took the time to help my Dad & I on crewing were there...Tom finished his 4th LT100 and as a kicker, he won his age group! amazing surprise. I am totally inspired. Michelle did not make it to Twin Lakes but I haven't spoken to her yet. I also got a chance to see Jay Smithberger and Dave Peterman who I didn't know were there...both of which killed it as well as 2 prior 100's as a part of the Grand Slam. Amazing.

We talked to other runners and talked about our experiences, I met Ludwik Zon a recent Leadman and spoke with him for a long time, I took a few minutes afterwards to talk to and thank the race director, Josh Colley. Then I walked over to buy a Leadville shirt. I will admit that I was embarrassed to buy a shirt, I don't think I earned it. But, in the end....I have to put aside the disappointment and realize that I am actually proud of my DNF at Leadville. (358 finished, 45% finish rate).

I spent the rest of the gift of the day with my Dad. We drove (rather than hiked) up to Independence Pass (12,095'). We talked and enjoyed time together that we haven't had in many years.

I don't regret one thing. I did the work, I put it all out there, and hopefully I am showing my children that in life, things often don't go as planned but it's how you choose to grow from it that is important. I spent needed time with my Dad, and you can't replace that. 

As people texted, called, emailed, and posted on the dawned on me that I am not the only one to have a rough's just a race. What is important is to get up and keep moving forward. I wore my tshirt on the plane back home and a few folks asked if I ran it. I told them what happened, they immediately shared their similar stories and we bonded over them! I have been amazed at all the positive and heartfelt comments from everyone, thank you so much! Don't feel sorry at all....I don't, I am proud of my DNF at Leadville!

Next up: Believe & Achieve 5k and 10k Race (directing)

...then see you at Oil Creek 100! (low altitude). 


Friday, July 6, 2012

43 days to Leadville

The excitement is starting to build for Leadville Trail 100. If you are not aware of the significance of this run I want people to know that this is more than just putting yourself through a grueling 100mi event like Leadville. I am proud to be an Ambassador for the Runwell. My ultimate goal has been to raise both funds and awareness for Runwell. In previous posts, you can read about the coaching I have received from Bob Seebohar and the difference it has made.
I strongly encourage you to either make a donate of ANY amount here or join the Runwell team and participate in an event of your choice. You do not have to run across a desert or 100 miles above 10,000 ft. You can choose a local 5k or marathon and discover the benefits that will pay forward to others. I want people to know that it is tremendous to be able to participate in these events knowing that you are being supported and that you are directly benefitting others. I say this because this is the kind of thing that goes through your head at mile 60, 70, 80+ when you are really dig a little deeper knowing that you are giving back.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Race Report: Mohican 50 miler

I better get this one down on paper before I begin to remember this race without the details. First of all, I rarely compete in races where I travel overnight; I try to stay local or not race at all so I minimize time from the family.
I had signed up for this race since I needed a 50miler before Leadville and was unable to get the time last year to run it. This was meant to be a training run, no taper, just train straight through…to add to the mix, I have been traveling for work for a few weeks and arrived back in CLE late Thursday night, went to a party, got home by 2am, worked the next day and then drove to Mohican for the night. Dave Wank & I stayed at the extremely posh Mohican River Inn about 5miles from the start. You can sit in the bed and brush your teeth at the same time since the sink is so close. Gotta love it.
So, did breakfast (S-Caps, UCAN, whey protein, chia, coffee, water, & some CLIF mini-mojo bars) then headed over to the race start. I desperately needed the morning bathroom stop which became a theme of the race for half of the race. After a quick photo with Tapatha, Kevin, Gale, Leghorny, & Michael, the race started at 5am and off we went. Dave & I ran together in the dark at what felt like a very easy pace, kicking roots, rocks, and wishing I had brought my headlamp rather than relying on the moonlight and fellow runner’s lights. My goal was simply to run an easy race…..shooting for about 9.5-10hr total time.
The trails at Mohican are gorgeous; there are sections that looked like something you would see in the Pacific Northwest, ferns, moss, & pine needles. We continued to run easy and I found myself directly behind Connie Gardner which for me, was probably a clear sign that I needed to slow down, regardless of how I felt. I thought if I feel this good now and can simply maintain the effort, I would easily make top 10. I ran behind Connie watching her steady pace, conservative, deliberate, & light steps, walking the steeper hills, and slowing just slightly on the lighter hills. I stayed with her through about 13-14miles before I decided that I should slow it down. I had been looking for an opportunity to find a restroom the entire morning and finally about mile 15 I saw a porto, ran in there seeing my friend Keith coming out, ironically. We said a quick hello, and then I tried to shift from running to relieving…something that took a few mins. 

The miles went on, and I plodded along the hills…realizing that these hills were going to put me closer to a 10hr finish time. No worries, it’s just a training run right? By mile 20 I was searching for another trail bathroom, which I eventually found… I hit the end of the first loop (26.2) miles about 4:55 in and had my last bottle of UCAN, changed my shoes/socks and then took off. It was hot, hilly, but I was moving forward and over 50% done. Time to just get it done. The aid stations were awesome and I admit that the buckets of ice water were simply amazing!  I took my time at aid stations, then started to walk after realizing I had been pushing too hard in the heat & hills. About mile 34 I met up with Richard Cook who had a solid pace going….I hopped on the Cook train, chatted, ran, kicked up the pace, and really enjoyed the time spent. At mile 44.2 Richard looked at me and asked if I had a time goal. I told him I had re-evaluated my 9.5 hr goal to be sub 10 hrs, but as I looked at my watch, I was at 9hr 44min with essentially an hour to get in 6mi. Not going to happen…I had lost time going to the bathroom, at aid stations, and walking for way too long during miles 26-34. Lesson learned….I needed to feel more pain and stop relaxing. I looked at Richard & another runner, Kevin who had been with us and said “It’s doable” and after one last bathroom break I decided that I had 60mins to run a 10k. I dug a little bit deeper and dropped the pace. This was my biggest lesson…I had the ability to run 9min miles and didn’t. I kept thinking “it’s just a training run” and with that attitude, I allowed myself to slack. I hit the finish at 10:50, happy to be finished and happy that I wasn’t doing the 100 that day….but realizing that I should have pushed harder. Dave came in about 9:38, which was strong and where I should have been.
Overall, I was happy…happy that I just ran 50 very hard miles without a taper…but still learned that I need to slow the heck down for the first half of the race… Lastly, to take the time to go to the bathroom early and not to let the attitude of a “training” run dictate my effort level.
Recovery was excellent; I left for Texas again very early Monday morning and continued training that evening. I took Sunday off running and got to sleep in for Father’s day. The training in Texas has been brutal with temps well into 110 degrees. I’ll have to write a separate entry on it. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Race Report: CLE Marathon

I've got to write this while it's fresh in my mind. Let me start by saying that I was wishy washy from the start with the Cleveland Marathon. I was fortunate to pick up an entry at the Expo literally 2 days before the race. My training plan called for a double Saturday, double Sunday including 26mi that taper, and more than one speed workout during the week. It's all training for the best part is, no matter how I did...I lost nothing and gained another experience.

After all the exceptional results I have been experiencing under the Seebohar coaching through Runwell, I thought I could eek out a 3:15-3:25 marathon Sunday. I ran with Jim Mann who I know could pace me to a 3:15....but I told him I was really just wanting to beat my 3:32 PR. Let me say this, I am not a road marathoner...I've done a few...but I have never really trained to be fast at the marathon. One day...but not yet. I like the trails too much.

We took off, you could tell it was going to be a warm one. We said we'd hang at a 7:30-7:40 pace until the 1/2 and then pick it up a notch. I've been doing this on hard trail runs so I had confidence that the road would be a cinch. 3mi in I knew where I was headed...the legs still a little heavy from the 8mi threshold trail run, the previous day's double, and so forth. Who cares, right? Just suck it up and run fast? Naw....I think I ran 7:40'ish for about 12 miles before I saw my pace slipping close to 8's. I told Jim one last time, "go...I'm a big boy, I can handle the rest" He did....and finished strong for such a hot day (3:31), for a guy who runs a 3:06...It makes me feel better. It was getting hot, I wasn't feeling super agile & light. Just felt like I was a wanting to trod along. I hydrated very well, lots of nuun, e-caps, did my UCAN in the morning, 1 GU around mile 21, the rest was just dealing with the heat. No cramps, but the pace dropped and I could care less. I kept thinking about spending time on my feet in the heat. How much harder Leadville will be, how much harder a road marathon was that day than touring along shady trails for 26miles.

I was doing a bottle of water between each aid station, dumping a cup on my head, and taking off. Under one of the last bridges in MLK, I ran up to the Medical tent and proclaimed that "my nipples need medical attention!" I one else did, the dude just handed me a wooden stick with Vaseline on it for me to apply my own medical attention. As I ran away I re-affirmed that it was really fun to run up and say that...I finally got a smile. I think they were tired of chaffing nipple runners.

The aid stations were great, volunteers are great, and with the heat above 85 after such a mild Spring, I dont think i was ready for it. So, it became a game of heat & hydration. Spirits were good...I ran with a couple BAFF tri guys for a while, one who was completing his first marathon. At mile 25, I see Kirsten in a pink tutu....she had Leghorney with her and so I was able to carry her (the leg) into the finish line. That was probably the best part. I rounded the corners with the leg raised as people cheered. With the last .1mi to go, I raised the leg again and took the final sprint while the announcer called out about a runner with a mannequin leg "only in America" he said. Kirsten & leg made the Plain Dealer and I got interviewed at the end about it as well by Camp Sunshine. Such a fun concept.

I will say this, I have never ever puked at a race....but at the end of the sprint with the leg, I stopped and as a lady asked me what the deal was with the leg, I started to heave....heaved again....held it back...still haven't puked... Then continued to tell her about the leg, it was a charming moment I am sure.

I cannot wait to see the race photos of the finish with the leg held high in the air. Oh, I finished at 3:59 on a 3:15 goal and don't care. I got to see a lot of friends and supporters, people ran their first marathons, Radames KILLED it at 3:16 after a 50miler two weeks ago! It was a great time and a lot of fun....but man, it was hot.

Later that night, I got out and did 40mins on the trails.....tomorrow I've got a ridiculous 10miles of threshold planned.

I will admit a couple things: I was a little disappointed in myself for not at least getting in the 3:20's....but as I look back, it wasn't in the cards that day. Secondly, as we split from the half/full marathon...I saw all these folks getting to finish. I will admit that I kinda wanted to just finish up then...but at that point....there was no reason for that. I would have just had to go home and do the miles anyway!

Happy to have a rest day today, looking forward (kind of) to the killer 10miler tomorrow.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Runwell to Leadville

128 days to Leadville 100 Trail Run

Linda Quirk / Runwell has been amazing throughout all of this. It adds something really special to be able to be running for an organization that actually makes a real difference in people's lives. If you haven't looked at Runwell, take a look at the website and see for yourself the level of accomplishment that this organization has reached and who they help.

I have actually looked at flights and locations to stay (hopefully not all booked, but many are). I've also taken a look again at the course guide, runner's packet, and elevation chart.

There's just no way around it, this is going to be a brutal race! The best part is that the above elevation profile is one run 50miles out and back....Hope Aid station is at 11,836 then you continue up and over Hope Pass at 12,600' down the back-side to the Winfield Aid Station to hit the 50mi mark. Turn yourself around and run all the way back up and down (repeatedly)....all the way back to Leadville. This will be painful and a little suffering will ensue before, during, and after. I like pain of this nature, it is all temporary and well worth it, why not push it to the limit? A number of folks have asked me these questions:

Do I have a time goal? Yes, I usually set 3 goals for any ultra:
  1. the dream goal - anywhere near 24 hours. 
  2. the realistic goal - somewhere around 26-27 hours
  3. the most important goal - finish strong.
What am I doing about altitude?
  1. I am relying on the coaching from Bob Seebohar ( Coach Bob is a Leadman and I have the utmost confidence in the quality training he is providing. I'll be flying in Thursday, check in Friday, Race Sat-Sun, then fly out Monday. Bing, bang, boom, done, back to work. 
  2. I've spent time in the Rockies above 10k' running (but not racing) and have done fine. I've also spent time in the Himalayas upwards of 18,200' and although it wasn't a 100mi race, I did fine at altitude there. I'll take the usual precautions, hydrate well, looks for any/all signs of altitude sickness, and be smart about it. 
  3. My biggest concern is not the altitude, it's the amount of ascending and descending. We don't have the extreme elevations in Ohio as the Colorado Rockies. Again, I am relying on the very challenging training I am going through now to get me there.
Any other race planned before Leadville?
  1. I am directing the O24 on April 28-29th, in Kirtland Ohio. It is a USATF & IAU certified 24 Hour Timed Trail Race being held in Chapin Forest Reservation.
  2. I am running the Mohican 50 miler in June as a training run. 
  3. The rest is all training for LT100!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Training: +Progression due to Coaching

I'm not the best runner or writer, but I want to try to get my thoughts out there about the success I have had with nutrition & training related to the coaching from Bob Seebohar who is guiding me to the Leadville Trail 100 that I am running for Runwell. It's just too good, this is something that we all need to look into.

Last night, I went out for a 9.3mi negative split run on roads around the area I live in, which is not flat...It's not the Rockies, but it is quite hilly and hills hurt here like they do anywhere else. My instructions were to run 9 miles Negative Split (high aerobic / then tempo). I made the choice to from my house which the highest point in the area (everything is a descent from there) and took it easy at about a 7:15-7:30 pace until I hit 4.5 miles and took it up a notch to maintain about 7:15 all the way home (all uphill). Look, there are thousands of people out there who can run like this daily with ease, I am by no means an elite runner, never will be...I revel in the success of a training run like this. For me, just a few years ago this workout would not happen. Race day, maybe....but not at 8:30pm in the dark after a full days work, kids to swim practice, a core workout, reading stories to kids, then suiting up and killing it for 1hr 9min on this 9.3mi route. I ran by myself, in the dark, a headlamp, with the occasional pair of reflective eyes looking back at me from the woods, and watching my shadow as I passed under the occasional street light (one of my favorite things).

I've never been coached as a runner. I've followed generic training plans and ultimately made my own over the past couple years based on my own experiences, reading what others have done, websites, modified the Hal Higdon marathon and ultra-marathon schedules, but I've never had a coach actually provide me with a month to month plan that progressively grows to peak for a particular race(s).

I'm very coach-able, I literally love to do the work, love to reach the goals of the team and the coach. Highschool soccer & lacrosse was a lot of "fun work",we just had to show up, bring the effort, the determination, follow a some intuition, and the coaches instruction. We had a lot of success during those years but once I got to college and chose to stay on the bike rather than full time on the soccer team, I did not have the benefit of a coach. It's been this way for 14 years now, mostly solo training and reading as resources. I was with Carmichael Training Systems (CTS) for a little over a year and saw some amazing progression in cycling but soon could not afford the monthly fees. With family & work, it was just an extra expense was that needed to pay bills, put clothes on the kids, food on the table, and home upgrades. Paying for coaching quickly went away.

Fast-forward a few years after starting to learn to run ultra marathons (still learning)...and now as an Ambassador for Runwell I have been incredibly fortunate (and you can, too) to be provided coaching services depending on the event you are signed up for. Coach Bob Seebohar (MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS, US Olympic Dietician in 2008, et cetera.) See his website for all his information, this guy is a beast!. He is preparing me for one event, the Leadville Trail 100, that's it...that's the focus. I will say that after running 65-100+ mile weeks for the last couple months, I was a little concerned when I got my first month's training plan and it was a DRASTIC reduction in mileage; something that was probably harder mentally than physically. I admit, I freaked out a bit, assuming that I was right where I needed to be and really wanted to resist the training plan. I did for about a week. After some reassurance, I accepted it and have been following it almost to a "t" since. Part of the reassurance comes from Linda Quirk who is also coached by Bob and has had amazing success in the endurance world (google her, you'll see). They are quality workouts that are all a part of a progression. I have more added focus than ever. I am very excited to see how it all builds 5 months from now. 

Prior to starting the training plan, I began to follow Seebohar's passion: nutrition. If you have read my experience at BR100, you know that I struggled with nutrition...significantly. Over the rest of 2011, I was getting a handle on the calorie consumption using Hammer products and had good success with it at the RWS double marathon in October, but shortly thereafter I began to transition into the Metabolic Efficiency Training (MET) that Bob teaches. I downloaded the two MET books by Bob, read every word and it just made too much sense not to give it a try. It took me about 2 months to transition from being a "carb-addict" to running on very little, if nothing at all for calorie consumption on a run. I will say that for about 4-5 weeks I was experiencing some really good bonks at about 1:45 into a run where my glycogen levels had depleted and my body was looking for more sugar that wasn't there. I knew to expect them, so I plugged along and got through it. My body has now learned, and is continuing to learn, how to metabolize fat as an energy source rather than rely mostly on carbs.

MET is not a diet, it literally is a way of life. For me, it was a smack in the face of how carbohydrate dependent I have been over the years. It's not a complicated concept, and once you have been doing it for a while, it's second nature. I dropped 2.5% body fat in about 8 weeks something I haven't been able to do for a few years. My body composition improvement is visually noticeable and I feel lean and strong. I still reach for the cookie jar probably more than I should, but I allow it on occasion to maintain a healthy balance...can't always behave!

Hydration has been the one thing that I have managed to remain consistent with. I have used nuun tabs for a few years now. I used them before I became an ambassador for them, and I continue to use them in my hydration strategy for every run & ride I go on. I do add S-Caps depending on the weather and the effort.

So, the proof is in the pudding, right? Here are some small but big success examples I have experienced in the last 2months:
50k training run: in the snow, on trails, 5hr 33min including bathroom stops and taking it easy. I ate 3 packets of Generation UCAN = about 360 calories or ~65/hour. I would have normally consumed roughly 1,500cals of Hammer Perpeteum during that time period. That's over 1,100 calories difference that I burned from fat stores. There were no GI issues, no bonking, nothing. For hydration, I had 6 tabs of nuun in my hydration pack (Nathan HPL#020).
50k Green Jewel Race: 4hr 35 min on 2 packets of UCAN. That was a 21 min PR for me and I did not taper a bit (although I should have)! Friend and fellow Runwell Ambassador, Pam Rickard saw even better results with 2 packets of UCAN and an hour PR for her 50k!
Other: I've also had a few negative split training runs over the past 2 months that literally I have set unintentional PR's for 10mi, 13mi, and 25k distances....just in training! Now, I am working hard, but there is something to be said about the other half of your training being proper nutrition. I wish I had known about this years ago when I was racing bicycles, but I know about it now and urge you to check out Bob's website and books.

If you run with me, I'm going to tell you about it. It's just been such a positive life changing thing for me that I am just excited to talk nutrition with others. I will also talk about coyotes, core workouts, and my favorite Altra Zero drop shoes that I picked up from Fleet Feet and my upcoming race, the O24 (Have you signed up yet??). Deal with it, I love this stuff!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Race Report: Green Jewel 50k

Below is my race report for the 2012 Green Jewel 50k.

We ran that far.

I'm not sure how I got talked into NOT following my training plan from Coach Bob for this weekend. My schedule called for a 16 mile negative split run on Sunday. I think it's that I PR'd at the GJ50k in 2009 and I wanted to see if I could run this as a fun training run and beat my time of 4:56. In 2009, it was a 50k PR of 1hr 24mins as I was very new to ultra running. I was fortunate enough to be offered some "rock star" crew treatment from Mike Nicholson (2011 3rd place) whose brother Greg, was running his first 50k. After waiting for the salamander migration to clear at CVNP, we pulled in the lot and I ran into a number of familiar faces (Kathie Teuschner, Pam Rickard, Brian Morris, and others) before taking off and heading to the start.

I love the atmosphere before an ultra. No one was complaining that the race was not going to start on time, everyone was smiling, excited for what we were about to do, taking photos, sharing stories, adjusting bib numbers, and well-wishing other runners. I finally got to meet Lee Shane in person (rather than facebook), accepted an Elmo (gluten & vegan) cupcake from the Basich's, shed a layer, took a quick wizz and off we went!

Pam Crushing PR
I ran a few miles with Pam who stands 9 feet tall in her Hokas and floats through puddles, whereas I was skimming the ground in Altra zero drop shoes :). Pam & I are fellow Runwell Ambassadors and have been under the same coaching & nutrition expertise from Bob Seebohar ( were both very excited to see how the metabolic efficiency training was going to play out for us. 

Keith Finishing Strong
A few miles in, Pam dropped back (but only by a few seconds) and I met up with Keith Lascelles; we began chatting about running, nutrition, the day's goal, and whatever other stories that came to mind. Our goals were similar, to run about a 4:30-4:45 depending on how the day went. This is one of the best parts of the running community I think. There are races that you end up running solo for hours and races where you play leap-frog with people, and ones like this where I was fortunate enough to run with Keith for pretty much the entire race. We kept saying "we need to slow it down, if we take the pace back, it will pay dividends later, etc..." neither of us would do it, we just kind of went with it. Mile 16 flew by and I thought  maybe I can negative split this thing, so I started a slight pace increase. 

Can you guess where the cramps started!

Lesson learned. 

On Friday, I posed a comment in the Outrun group "taper schmaper" after a hard week of speed workouts and a brutal 9 mile race pace run on trails on Thursday, 90mins of intense core (TRX, Insanity, and other core work) on Friday. Seemed a good idea at the time, besides it was just a fun run, right??. At mile 19 something under my right rib cage had such a sharp pain that it made me walk. my pace went from ~8min/mile to 9:30 to an 11:00 pace, not cool. I first thought was that it was my food....nope, dummy, it was my overzealous workout the day before. I met and passed Debbie Scheil, who shortly thereafter patted me on the shoulder to get going so she could chase....she continued on strong (to PR!) and not long after I see Keith. We played leap-frog for a while before the abdominal muscle cramp was manageable to run constant. We hit the marathon mark at 3:45 and the rest was just a solid easy effort to the finish. Everytime I picked up the pace, I was reminded to back off by my ab muscle. Lesson learned. With about 2 miles to go, Keith picked it up and ran a really strong finish...gaining about 4 mins on me by the end (4:31). I came in shortly after with a 4:35.

Green Jewel 50k Finish

Happy enough with the effort, but disappointed in myself for not taking heed to taper even a little. That's all a wash though since the experience was such a great one. I ran into Lee Shane, Crystal Basich, & Keith super exited to hear how they did (so impressed). They asked how Pam was and I guessed about 30mins back. I went to change into warm clothes and as I walked back, I saw Pam finishing an astonishing 4:44!

Pam's first question to me: "what did you eat?".....", "2 packets of Chocolate UCAN. that's it."...nod of agreement, this works. Proof is in the pudding (as long as it's a 1:1 carb/protein ratio!).

Final Thoughts

It's been 4 days since the race and I have still not taken a day off. Got in 8 miles Sunday, 8 Monday, and a really hard 6 miles Tuesday. I finally cross trained Wednesday and am back on track for my Leadville 100 training. Next on tap is more training, the O24 and then Mohican 50mi.

Big Thanks

Please remember that none of these races are possible without a LOT of hard work from the Race Directors (Joe Jurczyk & Vince Rucci) Courtney Russell for taking all the finisher photos and all the volunteers who give time and effort to support runners in these events. There is nothing better than seeing familiar faces at aid stations and getting help from people who have such great ultra & running experience and really do know how to help. Again, how can you not be impressed with the ultra running community? We rock.