Sunday, January 19, 2014

4th Harbison 50k Race Report

The Harbison 50k was on January 4, 2014 and held at Harbison State Forest in Columbia, SC, but with a different Race Director than the first three events. RD David Nance did a wonderful job of continuing the success at this event Dan Hartley had begun in 2011.
This race was going to be like no other that I have done. Out of the 9 marathons and 10 ultras I have completed, I had never gone into a race this under-trained. How undertrained? I had zero miles in September and October due to a foot issue. In November (with some custom orthotics to alleviate the pressure/pain) I began my personal “Couch to 50k in 10 weeks“ program. After one week of only walking, the next 5 weeks went almost as expected, getting up to a long “run” of 10 miles. That was my longest run since April! Then I got sick with a 105° fever, and blurry vision from my antibiotics. That was 10 days off from running. (A month+ later now and I still have that lingering cough.) Just over two weeks before race day, so no time to really do much but try to get some running back in my legs. I knew I would spend much of the race walking and I had an expected time in mind even though I had no earthly idea how my legs would respond as the miles went on.
Race day brought mid 20’s at the start, clouds all day and it got up to maybe 45° - the shivering went away as soon as we started, right on time at 7:30am and it was never bad after that. 2 miles of service roads led us to the twists and turns of the Lost Creek Section. I walked many of the short hills and it was easy to quickly catch up to the small group just ahead of me as we went down the same small hills. The 2nd section was very runnable and I was still ahead of my “prediction” by 12 minutes. I typically walk very fast, so I was not losing as much time as I walked a bit more as the miles went on. Still moved well thru Spiderwoman and the rock garden. It was after the 3rd aid station that I was starting to feel the decline. I made it back to the start of the Lost Creek section (mile ~16.6) to start the second loop in 3:30. Although it was 38 minutes slower than 2013, I was happy to have made it that far and fully expected then I would be able to finish. I was going to walk it in from there as my left hip and inside left thigh began to affect my ability to run. I was able to shuffle on the downhills for the next few miles, but as the discomfort increased after that, my walking got slower and my ability to shuffle on the downhills became non-existent.
The aid stations were, as always, terrific! This year I mostly subsisted on potato chips, pb&j and cookies. Reminder to self – M&M’s when temps are in the twenties are quite solid. Also - can’t forget the hot chicken soup at the halfway mark! 

I was pretty much on my own after the very first aid station. Other than people usually passing me rather quickly, there were only two or three occasions where I had any lengthy conversations with people. I am completely comfortable out on my own and enjoy the solitude. 
At every aid station on the 2nd loop, I kept counting down the miles to the next one (and the finish) - that was my incentive. I knew based on my pace difference from the first loop that I would be close to 7:30, but that came and went during the last section. I was able to muster a trot those last 200 yards as I finished in 7:36!! (and one whole minute slower than my "expected" finish). I was thrilled with finishing, even with walking the last ~17 miles!
Thanks to all the support out there, good seeing Sully, Drew, Michelle, & Bill with great finishes - and congrats to the 2 others who have also finished all 4 Harbison 50k's: Viktor and Seth! See you next year - hopefully, with just a little more training.

First miles-near the back
At the back of this early "train"

After going off course early-Viktor passes me again.

by the Broad River...

Firebreak trail
Walking it in...just past halfway

Sulley running strong

Michelle always enjoying being out there

Sunday, January 6, 2013

3rd Harbison 50k Trail Race Report

This years race took place on the first Saturday in January again, on the 5th. Temps were in around 30° at the 7:30am start. I had come into this race with 10 weeks of mediocre training. Lack of motivation, ITB and knee issues, travel, and some family health issues all kept me from the desirable training for running a 50k with some sense of positivity. My left knee had gotten to the point one full week out that I couldn't go 4 miles without me feeling it. I decide then to run no more before race day (Should maybe have done that when it started back in early November). I had still averaged 24 miles/wk in the 9 weeks leading up to this event since the Spinx Marathon Oct 27th, but my long weekend runs only consisted of: 14, 11, 16, 9, 11, and a 13 miler over that time frame and 3 weekends with Zero miles. I had only had 1 of those all year before this stretch. But - I was at the starting line with no expectations except to finish (more hopeful, than an expectation).
The course was different for the 3rd year in a row, starting off on a gravel road for almost the first 2 miles before heading onto the trails. My co-worker Marty and I started off comfortably in the middle of the pack and everyone sorted themselves out well before the singletrack started. It took those first 2 miles to get the hands to stop hurting from the cold, but the temps ended up perfect for the duration. The Lost Creek section was very windy and runnable. My left knee started to wake up at mile 3 and I popped an Aleve for the 2nd time ever in a race. We came to the 5.8mi aid station in 57min and that knee never became more than a minor nuisance. Quick food grab and we kept on our way.
The rest of the way, heavenly aid stations were every 3.5-3.8 miles apart, so very easy to guess how much more to go between sections to refill on pringles, m&m's, oatmeal creme pies and more! Continued my habit of bringing a camera and took a few pictures along the way. Gently rolling hills were the norm for this section and we continued our same pace to AS2 at 9.4mi in 1:33. More fuel!
The next section had the infamous Spiderwoman II trail, the only part of the 2 loop course that I'd call tough. It's only a 10min section, so relatively minor in the scheme of things. Marty and I were still together at the mile 12.8 AS after 2:12.
The next section, taking us to Mile 16.6 and more than halfway, had some new sections, as we overlooked the Broad River (Bluff Trail) a little more on some tight trails before some wide service roads bringing us back near the start and the same 1st AS.
I did take a second Aleve thru here as a just-in-case measure. My left knee wasn't hindering me and wanted to make sure it wasn't going to.
2:52 for the first loop, and soon after Mile 17, Marty went ahead as my Right knee started to give me problems. Where did that come from? Was I favoring my other knee? Is it something about these trails that my knees don't like (see my 2011 post HERE ).

Anyway - that slowed me down for the rest of the race, but I was surprisingly able to run much of it. I had no typical issues: lower back was fine, hips were good, no muscle tiredness. Feet were good too for the most part.
The 2nd time thru those sections were ~7-10 mins slower, and Spiderwoman got my heart rate up this time around. I was running mostly by myself, but there were others around as I passed some (William) and got passed (Chad H, Lester, William!).
The course was perfectly marked with flags and "paint" dictating turns, but that didn't keep me from meandering past a clearly marked turn and heading down a hill that quickly looked foreign. 2 guys behind me also yelled to me as I stopped and wondered where I was. One other guy came into the last aid station at mile 24 from a different direction (likely bypassing the section with Spiderwoman).
The last section I was feeling motivated to finish it, and powered my way as best I could. I for once had a good feel for where I was and what was coming up, and I was trying to do the math in my head to break 6hrs, my goal last year and was originally my goal this year before my training-wheels fell off in Nov & Dec. The last aid station had said 4.4 miles, but I was pretty sure it was 3.6 - and that makes the math even more difficult. Regardless, I knew as I got closer that I would have it. I made the 2 last turns and hustled down the last trail to the road crossing, skipping over the logs (and right there my calf wanted to tighten up) and stopped at the finish in 5:54.
2nd fastest 50k and ~40 minutes faster than the previous Harbison races.
I will be back for #4 next January!
(Having issues adding photos, but have plenty on Facebook


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Spinx Run Fest Marathon Race Report

October 27th, 2012 I ran the Spinx Run Fest Marathon. It's put on by the Greenville Track Club, of which I have been the volunteer webmaster (& Board of Directors member) for the last 10 years or so. Running this distance just 2 weeks after a 50k was a new experience for me. I had done ultras 3 weeks apart before, and those hadn't gone so well, but I couldn't pass up this hometown event.
My IT band issue that had crept up on me during the New River Trail 50k stayed with me these last 2 weeks. I took it easy the week leading up to this event - but I was still worried.
My buddy Todd was in town for the race and I met up with him in the Greenville Drive stadium where people were bustling about before the 7:30am start. Saw a few others I knew (like Merl & Team DNR member Dave who was volunteering).
Todd and Dave - Team DNR Goons

We made our way to the start line just outside the stadium and would make our way to the Swamp Rabbit Trail to Furman University, then back on and off the trail to Travelers Rest for the turnaround and 13.6. Swamp Rabbit back thru Furman, more Swamp Rabbit to Greenville before the last 1+ mile on the road, and finishing with a lap around the warning track going into home plate.

I hung with Todd at a fast pace - at least a minute faster than my plan, but it felt ok and I enjoy his company. Just like Charlotte, Myrtle Beach, etc. Was a bit downhill to start too. After an 8:02 mile, and then a bit further with Todd - I finally let him go as I got into my comfortable "pace" of 8:45 or so. No knee issue at all this early, and it would not appear at all during the race!
Had a few little hills here to remind us it wasn't all flat and I was running toward the Furman campus mostly by myself.

We went into the campus just after Mile 7 (in 59:41) and I was looking forward to this as it broke up the race some. I'd be running thru some parts of the campus I hadn't before in my 18 other races there before this one. Left the campus on the opposite side of the lake near Mile 10 and kept heading north. Took a 2nd Gu and started looking for the leaders before I split off the Swamp Rabbit towards the halfway turnaround. Sure enough, around Mile 12 - there they went! Soon after was the lead female, being led on the bike by DNR Good Kathrin!

Started running with a guy thru here doing his first marathon (from Kentucky?). Nice guy and doing well, but he was starting to feel it a bit already, and now we had a big hill to climb. I got ahead of him, took an S!cap and came up to the turnaround. A guy had a box of Krispy Kreme donuts and I grabbed one - it was very good and gave me some extra sugar. So - Mile 13.1 in ~1:54:25, so my 2nd fastest marathon half ever.
So I kept running back thru downtown Travelers Rest on the Swamp Rabbit for another loop thru Furman. About Mile 16 I began to feel it - the sensation that I was running out of steam. I pushed on for another mile and hit mile 17 at Furman and promptly started my walking breaks (after a quick pit stop). I was doing about 9:05's before this and the walk breaks took me down to 10:30's. I was still enjoying the Furman route and had picked up my pace a little bit more while getting back onto the Swamp Rabbit. I started passing and then got passed by the same couple repeatedly as we alternated walk breaks. She finally left me for good at the hill at mile 23.
Mile 20 in 3:00:10.
Around Mile 21, I saw a guy down. Sitting up at least, and being attended to by at least 4 people, one of which had a bicycle. I assumed he was being take care of, but stopped and asked if they needed anything. They asked if I had Gu. I said sure and gave them my last one, but also gave them my 2 remaining S!caps, which I'm sure would have helped more. They were a little concerned with my time but that was the least of my worries.
Turns out - I had my own issues that appeared within the next mile. My right calf started cramping. OUCH. It was constantly on the verge of seizing up and every now and then would cause me to tighten up and hope it would diminish.
After another mile (~Mile 23 and the big hill), my left calf decided join to cramping party. Double-ouch.
Miles 23 and 24 were 11 min miles and the last 2 were 12:10. Not good, but I was not too concerned, especially coming two weeks off my 50k PR.
Saw someone being put into an ambulance at Linky Stone Park - it was warm and people did go out too fast. I made it up the last uphill and went around the outside of the stadium. Saw my HS buddy for Germany who was in town and headed in to the back of the filed along the warning track for the last .2mi.
Heard my name called out and looked for my family. I was just struggling to keep moving and hoping that my calves would allow me that motion.
My little girl (almost 4) was in the arms of my friend and past-GTC President Kerri, When she tried to hand her to me, she decided she didn't want to. I got to her first though, and she hugged my next as I went thru the finish in 4:09 (1 minute faster than the marathon split at the New River 50k).

All I can say is glad it's over! Finishing 2 long events 2 weeks apart was something I was unsure of, but I made it!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

New River Trail 50k Race Report

This event's 5th running on Saturday October 13th, 2012 took me up to Fries, VA, just over the border from NC off I-77. It had sounded like a great event, all along the New River, flat (and therefore, fast), plus - 4 others I know from Greenville were supposed to be going up as well. As race day got closer, all four had to bail out due to injuries, lack of training, or scheduling conflicts. Even with that - I was excited about being out there in nature for the morning and then some.

My family came up with me Friday afternoon and once settled into the hotel in Galax, we got some dinner downtown and headed to packet pickup.

Start/Finish (packet Pickup)

Heron on the New River (packet pickup)

Got to pick out my pottery for registering early, got my shirt, bib and put in for a few door prizes - all went smoothly. Spent a little time at the river just enjoying the views as the sun got lower and thinking about the race. I was looking forward to the course - north along the river to Aid at Fries Junction (5.3mi), a little out and back before crossing a bridge and then running beside Chestnut Creek. Another Aid station at 11.8mi (or 6.5 since AS1). Continuing on by the creek another 4.1 to Cliffview Turnaround (at the edge of Galax). A little past halfway at mile ~16, then returning: AS 4 same as AS2-Mile 20, AS5=AS1-Mile 25.8. No out and back there, just the turn towards the finish. We got our certified Marathon split soon afterwards and finished where we began at 8am.

and we're off!
Race morning was very casual - after a night tossing and turning (just something about hotels!), breakfast in the hotel, and we all got to the race at 7:15 or so. Little cool out at 41°, but ideal temps for running. Race ready shorts, GTC long sleeve, hat, two handhelds (Amphipod and Ironman), wool socks and Montrail Badrocks on my feet. Trail wasn't technical at all - but these are my trail shoes.

where did we go??
At the starting gun from Annette Bednosky (elite runner and race director!), the faster runners took off and the rest of us settled into our paces. We headed down the trail and into the misty morning. With such a flat course - it only took a mile or so for the field to spread out and I was soon running by myself.  I felt pretty good and kept a comfortable pace, trying to keep my body relaxed. The first miles went by pretty quickly even with stopping for a few pictures of the river.
early miles
sunrise over New River
I got to the 1st aid station in 46min and ran thru it as my 2 handheld water bottles were fine and I'd already taken a Gu. I was on the out-and-back and as I started seeing more people, I knew the turn-around was near. Sure enough - an orange cone and 2 volunteers marked me down and I was heading back. As there was alot of time to think out there, I wondered how they got that point to make it a 50k? They'd have to measure from the start to the 1st AS, then the far turn around to the 1st AS, then subtract those from 50k, and then go exactly half that distance. Then - did they have to measure it from start to finish to see if it was accurate?
Anyway - I was running and had a long way to go.
Bypassed the aid station again and crossed the river on a nice big bridge. I had warmed up and after putting my gloves away after a mile or two, now had my sleeves pulled up. We got into some well shaded sections as we ran by Chestnut Creek, so I put my sleeves back down. I noticed how wet my arms were from all the mist in the air. Haven't had that happen in a while. A tunnel on this section was unexpected, but pretty cool.
Thru here I was running just behind two others who looked to have a nice steady pace, and I stayed with them for a few miles. 
It was time to re-fill and re-fuel at the next aid station (1:51). A guy ran up and got a bottle as I switched one of them to gatorade. I grabbed food and stuffed my face (usual items: chips cookie, PB&J, pretzels...), grabbed another handful, and left. Running alone again.
2nd & 3rd place males
1st place female on way back

 I had plenty of time to calculate when I could expect the leaders to come by me the opposite way. I had expected by about mile 13 (which would be about 5 miles ahead of me). After 2:06, here comes the leader, followed 30 secs or so later by two more guys and not too far behind, the 1st place female.
Hit the turnaround at 15.8 miles in 2:29, grabbed some more snacks and headed back towards the finish. It's always a great feeling going thru the halfway point where you know each step is toward the finish line. I was still running fine and hit the next aid station in almost exactly the same split (38/39min for the 4.1miles). 3:08 overall after ~19.9miles.
I could feel my legs wanting to slow down soon after this aid station (refill & small snack). I was so far very happy with my time and knew I'd be around 5 hrs even if I slowed to 12min miles. I added some walk breaks, but I do walk quickly anyway, so it wasn't slowing me down too much. The next aid station (and the landmarks that told me it was getting closer, like the tunnel, bridge) seemed to take forever to come into sight. It was on the warm side now and I was wishing I'd worn a short sleeve shirt. There were a few more bikers/walkers on the trail, but the runners heading toward the turnaround we're all past.
Finally, the tunnel, bridge and the last aid station at Fries Junction (mile ~25.5). I skipped the orange gatorade again and as usual at this point in an ultra - I had no appetite for food. Stood there waiting for something to look appealing. Gave up, grabbed some chips and left to go get my marathon split.
It came up pretty fast - even with me mot moving so well. My IT band flared up which made running difficult. Wasn't concerned with the split, but I was very happy with the 4:10:36. With my previous 50k PR of 6:19 - something dreadful would have had to happen for me to Not PR. 
I ended up running with (occasionally as we repeatedly passed each other) a woman which helped push me along, but I could only "run" for a few minutes at a time. I walk fast though, so I was still doing ~11min miles or so.
Finally - I saw the road crossing (~14min from the start heading out) and I was on my own after that. Came upon another guy obviously having chafing issues. I felt bad for him, but couldn't do a thing for him. I was still alternating running and walking, until I saw the clearing ahead for the finish. I walked to the little bridge and ran in from there. My wife and daughter were at the finish waiting for me as I crossed the line in 5:07:47, a 1 hour and 12 minute PR!!
Into the finish!

Felt pretty good afterwards - no more knee issues (until I ran again 5 days later). Was Very sore the following 2 days, but the 1.5mi walk on a different section of the New River Trail was nice the next morning.
I really enjoyed the course. Volunteers were amazing, aid stations were well spaced. It's difficult using the same muscles constamtly for 5+ hours. There was not the slightest hint of a grade anywhere on the course - FLAT as possible. If that is the way to get a PR - this course is for you! Not sure I feel the need to do that again though. (That's also my typical post-ultra comment!)


Sunday, September 30, 2012

Buncombe 55k Trail Race Report

Sunday September 16th was the Buncombe 55k Trail Run, part of the series. Ultrarunner extraordinaire Terri Hayes puts these on and they are low key, but well organized events. I highly recommend any race Terri puts on!
Race started around 7:30am after the usual instructions of the course and all it's different trails, turns, and what to look out for. I had made extra-sure I knew where I was going coming into this event, and a race map (Thanks Epic!) was my safety net.
The temps started out about 65° and thankfully never got hot. The course was a 4.5mi out, a 25 mile loop, then the same 4.5 mile loop back (Mileages are approximate - I heard it may have been closer to 36 miles...). Started out at a very comfortable pace thru some single track with some deep ruts. Probably 2-3 miles in, twisted an ankle a bit, but it never felt too bad. It was pretty amazing how fast the field separated. Seemed like I was only running near 2-3 people after only 10-15 minutes. People also must have started in the right spot as there was not much passing going on. A few here and there as the day went on.
From the beeps of the Garmin behind me, I was doing 10min miles those first few miles, and I was happy with that. After running with 1 or 2 different people for a mile or so each, I came upon Chad H. I'd run near him in other races, before fading as he stayed consistent for much further than I had been able. He was faster on the downhills, and I was faster on our uphill walks and we came to the first manned aid station together calling out our numbers: 436, 437. Must be alphabetical! Got my water bottle filled by one of the many awesome volunteers, grabbed some food (the usual ultra-fare!!) and got out of there. Must keep was going to be a long day and no sense in hanging around.
Chad and I ended up spending most of the day together. He went ahead for a few miles, but with more uphills in that section, we ended up back together. The trail had some interesting sections, with some good runnable singletrack, some obscured trails completely overgrown - so overgrown that both of my shoes came untied after each starting out double-tied. I could feel where each of them had been grabbed in thick growth that it was hard to see your feet in it. There were some trails thru clearings, and just over a mile of road. Rocks, pinecones, quite a few trees down too. The horses had really chewed up some sections though, and made for very slow trudging.
Hit mile 17 aid station at 2:59 with the same routine. Refill and refuel and keep going.
Chad and I kept the conversation going the whole way and made the time go by. We'd run when we could and power hiked when we had to.
Mile ~20.5 aid station in 3:44.
Mile ~28.25 aid station in 5:33 after the stretch on the road. (A slight detour from the normal trail parallel to the road). Jason S. was one of the volunteers there and they had a huge spread of food.
My legs felt fine, but my hips and abdomen started to get pretty sore thru 25 miles, so after that - we were even walking some of the flats. My body was starting to compensate for my other issues and that caused more things to become sore. It was interesting though, heading back into the last section, I started to feel better and nothing at all hurt, no soreness, nothing - and I was running the downhills much faster and the flats more frequently.
Of course it didn't last, but it sure felt good! A few people passed us those last 10 miles - looking very strong too, but we were content with our pace and our progress. I knew my little girl would be waiting for me at the end - she'd been wanting to cross that finish line with me. It seemed to take forever to get thru those last miles though. Doing the time from the last aid station, and the mileage that I thought the course was - we were going much slower than expected. (I heard the course may have been up to 2 miles long?). anyway - we finally started to see the trail head and I called out to my little girl as we broke thru the clearing. We still had to go up the road a bit to Terri's campsite, and my girl got to go with me! That's the biggest smile I'd had all day!

Finished time of 7:18. 18th out of 50 finishers. PR (1st 55k!)

Terri's last second instructions at the trailhead.

Trail conditions in 1st mile

~4 miles in, some clearing

Gravel road ~8.5 miles in (Chad)

Aid Station #1 (9mi; 1:33)

Small bit of overgrowth around mile 10

Lush - with easily followed trail (mile ~15)

Nice runnable trail! 4:30 for ~23.5miles

Chad and I after 28+ miles & 5:33

What could make me smile this big after 34+ miles?

Finishing with my 3 year old!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Taper for Buncombe 55k

So my training has not been going as well, with the difficult beach/vacation week and post-beach letdown. Last weekend's long run was somewhat better though, with 6 on the road and another 12-13 at Paris Mountain. Seemed to feel better once I hit 10 miles...being on the trails always helps.
My weekly runs suffered this week with a head cold, that slowly moved down into my chest. Speedwork had to be skipped.
I had something similar the week before Harbison 50k in January and I paid for it dearly come race-day.
I am hopeful this being 1-2 weeks out will make a difference.
My run today, 11.5 or so at Lake Conestee was good, with my 2nd "loop" 2 minutes faster than my first.
Temps dropped significantly last night and it was still in the mid 60's at 8:30am. So refreshing after being out in the 90's. Next weekends forecast calls for a low of 64° and a high of 80°. Little warmer start, but generally similar to the Enoree 40mi I enjoyed on the same Palmetto Trail last May. (This event starts at the same place and instead of going 20mi out and back one way, goes the opposite direction: 5 miles out, 24 mi loop, and 5miles back in).
Already made my decision on hydration: 2 handhelds. I will also be marking the course map/direction on my arm. I will be responsible about knowing the course!!

Taking it easy this week as I usually do race-week. A little speedwork and a comfortable 4 miler. Hope I'm ready!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

August Recap

Hmmm, I seemed to have missed August. Yes - that means no races.
After a little recovery week after the Camp Croft Trail Marathon (25 miles), I ramped it up quickly with just over 46 the following week. The 22 mile long run was pretty good - 11 miles on the road before the park opened, then another 11 at Paris Mountain. Was a warm one, but felt pretty good.
The following week (8/13-19) was good until the weekend. 27 during the week, but then vacation started and my long run at the beach was miserable, so it ended up being only 7.5 miles. Not sure what happened, but every run at the beach was terrible - much too hot and just could not get going. Even my long run once I returned wasn't any better. My expected 22 turned into 12. Ugh.
Then this past week - not much better. Decent speedwork (but still slower than I was hoping) and I still made it thru 24 miles during the week. Finally today - a breakthough. 6 on the roads were ok. Once I got back on the trails at Paris Mountain (doing the GTC 7k course three times), things got better the more I ran. Ended with 19 this morning and still feeling good. Will boost my confidence a bit with the Buncombe 34 miler 2 weeks out.

My yo-yo weekly mileage is almost funny, starting this week and going backwards:
35.1 (Trail ~marathon)
17.9 (Juarez/CA work trips

Not too consistent, but averaging 34.5, I'll take it.